Re: captains license
When you say captains' course I'm assuming that you mean one that prepares you for and administers a coast guard exam. I know there are online courses out there. I believe the "Mariners" course has been around for awhile. I can't speak to it's quality or merit.
The reputable ones are not bogus. You can go to the USCG website and see which courses they have approved.
I've taken all my courses in person. I think having an instructor there, if for nothing else than the charting and plotting portion, has to be better than an online version for the ability to interact with the instructor and other knowledgeable students. I had a Royal Navy Navigator in one of my classes who was a wealth of additional information.
Keep in mind that the academic portion of the course only gets you a certificate of completion and that in order to obtain a Captain's license from the CG you will need to document your sea time and meet their minimum standards; as well as submit to a drug test, physical, eye exam etc. To operate your own vessel, you don't need a license, and it sounds like your wife wouldn't have accumulated the amount of time to obtain one.
You might want to consider a few ASA or US sailing courses or a Power Squadron course..
The Navigation courses are pretty good if you get the right instructor.
An ASA school might even work something out so that you can take the courses on your vessel.
I hope this has been of some help..