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How to Find the Right Boat Delivery Captain

After spending the last few months looking for the perfect yacht to fill that empty slip, you’re finally ready to bring that new baby home – right where it belongs. Though you are capable of operating the boat yourself, your unfamiliarity with the waters you need to traverse to get back home made you decide that you’d rather hand the keys over to someone more capable, just to be safe. The problem is you’re not quite sure how to find the right captain for the job. Here are a couple tips to help you choose a delivery captain.

Where to Source

The first place to go to when looking for a qualified captain is a yacht brokerage. This type of business regularly hires professionals to move newly-sold yachts to new berths or to transport listed vessels, so it only makes sense to come to them first. You can find a list of regional yacht brokerage offices from The Yacht Brokers Association of America. In addition, you can also find captains through marinas and yacht clubs, as well as regional boat dealerships that sell larger vessels, which are really difficult to move on land.

What to Look For

Just because someone is carrying a United States Coast Guard Captain’s License doesn’t automatically mean that they are the best candidate for the job. Even though a license is a good indicator that the person is fit to operate your vessel (and may come in handy when you want your insurance policy to cover the delivery trip), experience is still everything. Ideally, you want your boat to be operated by a captain with experience navigating the waters from the pickup location to the final delivery destination. For instance, if you need to transport your boat from Fort Lauderdale to Rhode Island, you should hire someone with several East Coast deliveries under his belt. You should also ask him when was the last time he made a delivery along that route, as local conditions tend to change fast.

Boat Know-How

For best results, you want a captain who is familiar with running a vessel like your own. Here’s a relevant quote from David Northrop, President of Maritimo USA: “We are fanatical about only using captains who are truly familiar with our vessels and all of the operations and systems. Some tend to think that because they are captains, they’re experts on any boat, but nothing could be more incorrect. We only use captains who are educated about our vessels and who are willing to learn.” But even if you do find a diesel expert to operate your 80-footer with Caterpillar engines, know that a delivery captain’s primary objective is to get your vessel from point A to point B, and that he’s not on the job as a wrench responsible for pre-departure preparation. As a boat owner, it is usually your responsibility to make sure that the boat is ready to sail. If you’d like the captain to handle other responsibilities beyond running the vessel, you should discuss those expectations before proceeding to hire him for the job.

Confirm Credentials

When going through a captain’s resume, it’s important to verify his experience. Here’s a relevant quote from Peter Frederiksen, communications director at Viking Yachts in New Jersey: “A resume is not much unless the boat owner does due diligence by following up with the captain’s references. And if the skipper is bringing along a mate who expects to be paid for the delivery, make sure the mate is qualified and not merely the captain’s girlfriend.” Before bringing the mate or skipper aboard, contact your insurer to confirm whether the boat’s policy has a provision for temporary crew. “It’s imperative that the owner confirm this and not assume it as such based on what his dockside buddies tell him,” says Frederiksen.

Team Travel

Some boat owners opt to accompany the professional captain on the delivery, using it as an opportunity to develop their seamanship skills. However, not all pros enjoy that kind of experience. It can even cause problems if the owner doesn’t give the skipper full control. Before the trip, get to know each other and ask the captain if he’s fine with teaching you along the way. That is, if you choose to travel together. At the same time, do keep in mind that getting the vessel from point A to point B in a safe and efficient manner is the goal of a delivery. And before setting sail, be clear with your skipper on your rules concerning cooking, berths and use of the heads to ensure that the both of you are on the same page.

Budget for the Real World

When it comes to boat deliveries, be sure to prepare enough budget for the job. Because aside from the captain’s day rate, you’ll have to pay for the captain’s transportation expenses, meals, lay days, and other expenses. While you may be able to find a couple of cheaper options during your search, you need to be careful because you’ll probably get what you pay for.


I'm Captain Dave Subers. Call me personally (855-373-0700) and I'll be happy to to answer any questions you may have about boat deliveries.

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