Hiring a Captain – What to expect

It is that time of year again when many yacht owners retain a Captain (and crew) to run their yachts to the Bahamas for a weekend or longer. It was recently brought to my attention the importance of having a clear cut understanding on what each of the parties should expect from each other. Below are some guidelines that I use when placing a captain:

Pay rates for Captains vary greatly from $200.00 per day to over $500.00. The average pay for an experienced Captain is 400.00 / USD per day.

Tips / Gratuity
Captains do accept tips and it is customary in the U.S.A to tip approximately $100.00 – $200.00 per day on top of the Captains pay for a job well done. If no tip is given, it may be interpreted as the captain did not perform to your satisfaction.

Working Hours
Captains are responsible for the safe passage of valuable equipment (the yacht) as well as the guests. To this effect, it is important that a Captain be well rested and alert while he/she is on duty. I always recommend that the Captain’s working time (either running the yacht or tending to guests at the dock or at anchor), be limited to eight hours per day. Rest time should be at least ten hours for every 24 hour period during the cruise.

Captains should be provided with private air conditioned quarters (cabin) with a private bathroom and shower. A cabin with its own private entrance is always better.

Food and Drink
It is the yacht owners responsibility to provide the Captain with meals and beverage (no alcohol) during the voyage. The Captain can prepare his own meals if this is what the yacht owner prefers.

A Captain is responsible for the safe passage of the yacht as well as guests safety as well as the following:

  • The Captain should be able to troubleshoot and repair minor mechanical and electrical issues.
  • Clogged toilets are not something a Captain is trained or should be obligated to troubleshoot or repair unless he/she agrees, so it is of utmost importance to brief all guests on the proper use of a marine toilet.
  • Boat Washing is not normally part of what a Captain does, however most captains do not mind giving the boat a fresh water rinse at the end of the day.
  • Cooking / Serving: This is not the Captains job, Those expecting food service should also retain a cook and/or server for this.
  • Child Care: Captains are not responsible for child-care, neither are first mates.
  • Customs and Immigration: Captains should be able to guide guests through the process of clearing through Customs and Immigration in the Bahamas as well as back in the United States. The Captain should also make sure that all guests have a valid passport on hand (before departure) if travelling to the Bahamas.
  • Fishing / Diving / Water Sports: Captains normally partake in these activities but it is best to have an understanding of the Captains experience in these activities before hiring him/her.
  • Captains will inspect the yacht before departure to look for any issues that may affect the operation of the yacht. This includes; fuel status, fresh water status, engine room inspection, fluid levels, electronics, septic (toilet) system etc. However, it is the owners responsibility to have the yacht maintained in “turn-key” condition at all times, especially prior to a long trip.
  • Please remember that a Captain is primarily responsible for the yacht and guest safety so it is important to heed his/her advice regarding route, destination, weather and water activities.

On voyages to the Bahamas and other non-U.S Destinations, the Captain is responsible for meeting all the requirements of the local immigration and customs regulations. It is important that all guests have a valid Passport if visiting the Bahamas. The Captain is also the only person allowed to disembark in order to clear customs and immigration for the passengers. Once this is completed guests are allowed to disembark. Not following these simple rules may result in vessel forfeiture and jail time.

Below are some other positions that you may wish to have on your yacht

Deckhands / First Mate

On small recreational yachts (typically under 100 feet), the deckhands perform all deck operations handling ropes and fenders, ensuring the exterior of the yacht is in a condition fit for sea, as well as keeping it in immaculate conditions at all times.  Preparing and operating water toys is also part of this job. Deck hands earn about 150.00 to 250.0 per day plus gratuity.


Stewards are responsible for maintaining guest cabins clean, beds made and laundry as well as cleaning and maintaining all common areas of the yacht. Stewards earn about $150.00 to $250.00 per day plus gratuity.


Servers are responsible for taking care of guests needs as they apply to food and beverage as well as maintaining common areas clean and clear. This position typically costs between 100.00 to 250.00 per day plus gratuity.


Chefs prepare food for guests (and crew). Chefs may bring food already cooked and prepared or cook from scratch on the yacht. This position typically costs between $250.00 to $500.00 per day plus gratuity.

Following these guidelines can help ensure proper communications between you and your hired crew so that everyone is treated fairly and has a positive experience.

Happy Boating!
Captain Tony


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