By Capt. Scott “Fraz” Murie
Double zero is the term we have used in this business for as long as I can remember. It stands for owner/operator, or boats with no crews. Having a boat without a dedicated crew doesn’t make sense. The owners of these boats may think they are saving money by hiring a wash down and wax crew to keep their boats shiny two days a month. Some owner/operators think that’s all there is to it!
Some of these owner/operators don’t seem to realize just how much more there is to maintaining a fifty, sixty, or seventy-foot sportfish boat. On numerous occasions, I’ve witnessed double zeros come down to the dock with their friends and guests to use their boat. The boat is clean and shiny, but for some reason it won’t crank. Maybe one engine cranks, but the other one won’t. Or, the AC is not working, and it’s hot as blazes on the inside.
Maybe the pumps have burnt up because the sea strainer has been clogged for days, or the water manifold is leaking because of electrolysis. Maybe the bilge is full of water, bonding wires are broken, or the water maker won’t work for lack of maintenance. The ice maker may be tripping the breaker or the windless is frozen from lack of maintenance. You get the picture! (Turns out that keeping a sportfisher in working order can be a full-time job—or full-time jobs for three people)!
These are just a few of the many systems on the boat that need continual maintenance. The sad part is now the owner and all his friends are standing around on the dock in hopes that a crew from another boat can help him get his boat up and running so they can go have fun. All the money he thought he was saving just goes into repairs that could have been avoided if he had a good crew. Maybe he wants to just drive the boat? I say go ahead and drive the boat, but keep a good crew on so when you come down it’s drivable. Also, remember one of the top customers for prop shops are owner/operators.
In my opinion, at the very least, you should have one full-time captain on the payroll. That said, it sure makes it tough for one man to be left in charge—especially if the boat is being moderately used. Using freelance mates is an option; however, there have been several situations I’ve seen where the owner calls and wants to go fishing or use the boat for business or pleasure, and the captain is left scrambling to find help because everyone is busy. If you are going to operate a boat like this, it is a must to schedule your fishing and boating events well in advance so the captain can book freelance help. Even then that can backfire.
With a good crew on board you will save time and frustration but, of course, that only happens when the crew is “good.” That’s a whole other story. With a hired crew, you’ll catch more fish with less headache for sure. We haven’t even talked about the safety issues being an owner/operator. Bottom line is if you can’t afford a full-time professional crew you might want to consider putting your boat up for sale and chartering until things improve. From my perspective, the cost of hiring a full-time crew for a sportfish boat should be considered not a luxury item, but part of the operating cost of the boat itself—like dockage, fuel, and everything else that you need for things to work properly.