Having spent a boatload of time and energy hunting down the right baby for that empty slip, you’re ready to bring that new yacht home from its present far-away abode. Want to give the keys over to a professional, but you’re not quite sure how to find the right skipper for the job? Here are some things to consider when choosing a delivery captain.
Where to Source: One place to go for a qualified captain is a yacht brokerage, as this type of business frequently hires professionals to transport listed vessels or move just-sold yachts to new berths. Regional yacht brokerage offices can be located through the Yacht Brokers Association of America. You can also source captains through marinas, yacht clubs and regional boat dealerships, particularly dealerships that sell larger vessels, which are difficult to transport by land.
What to Look For: Experience is everything, and it means more than just a United States Coast Guard Captain’s License. While a license is key —and may be necessary for the delivery trip to be covered under your insurance policy—it doesn’t always mean the person carrying it is the best-qualified candidate to run your particular boat. Ideally, you want to hand the keys over to a captain who has experience navigating the waters where your delivery will occur. If you need to get your boat from Ft. Lauderdale to Connecticut, then you want to hire a person with a couple of East Coast deliveries in his wake. And you want to know when he last made a delivery along that route, as local conditions can change quickly.
Boat Know-How: Ideally, you want a delivery captain who has experience running a boat like your own. “We are fanatical about only using captains who are truly familiar with our vessels and all of the operations and systems,” says David Northrop, President of Maritimo USA. “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.” Yet even if you do find a diesel expert to run your 60-footer with Caterpillars, know that a delivery captain is not on the job as a wrench, particularly before departure. The boat owner is typically responsible for making sure the boat is ready to get under way. If you’d like the captain to clean, fuel, and do fix-it work, discuss those expectations before hiring him for the job.
Confirm Credentials: When reviewing a captain’s resume, be sure to verify his experience. “A resume is not much unless the boat owner does due diligence by following up with the captain’s references,” says Peter Frederiksen, communications director at Viking Yachts in New Jersey. “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 you bring the skipper or mate aboard, though, make a call to your insurer to confirm the boat’s policy has a provision for temporary crew. Says Frederiksen, “It’s imperative that the owner confirm this and not assume it as such based on what his dockside buddies tell him.”
Team Travel: Because a professional captain can help a weekend cruiser develop seamanship skills, some owners choose to accompany the hired gun on the delivery. Yet the truth is, some pros don’t always enjoy that experience. It can cause problems if the owner doesn’t allow the skipper to maintain command. If you do choose to travel together, get to know each other before the trip and ask the captain if he’s willing to give you instruction along the way. At the same time, remember that the goal of a delivery is to get the boat from point A to B as quickly and safely as possible. And before the boat leaves the dock, be sure the skipper knows your rules regarding berths, cooking, and use of the heads to ensure that his presence on your boat is to your liking.
Money Matters: If you hope to get your boat delivered on the cheap, you’ll probably get what you pay for. Budget for the real world. In addition to the captain’s day rate, you’ll have to pay to bring the captain to the boat or get him back home after the vessel arrives at home port. You’ll cover expenses such as meals, and lay days, too.