By Scott “Fraz” Murray
So many times, I’m asked about how much a captain should get paid. Sometimes, I’m asked by the captain and sometimes I’m asked by the owners. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason on what a captain should or shouldn’t make.
Back in the day, there was an unwritten rule that a captain should make a grand per foot. I don’t know who came up with that…but it was ignorant.
A captain’s pay should reflect the value of his experience and the demands of the job—not just the size of the boat he runs. Do you mean to tell me that an experienced captain on a 52-foot boat, running 1000 hours per year should be paid the same as another inexperienced boat driver running 200 hours per year on the same boat? It makes no sense.
Experience is what I would use as a gauge on paying a captain. Some captains I’ve witnessed recently (and there are more than you’d think) are making top dollar despite the fact that they have little to no experience. They must call for service on every little thing that goes wrong or isn’t working properly. I mean these guys don’t know how to use a voltmeter or how to change a water pump, let alone troubleshooting whatever the problem may be.
These kinds of “boat drivers with a captain’s license” cost their owners thousands of dollars a year in service maintenance because of their lack of experience in service. Their claim to fame is that they’re “fishy” (meaning a good fisherman).
On the other hand, there is the experienced captain. Not only are they “fishy,” but their experience shows when you’re in a situation and the owners and guests onboard are totally dependent on him to properly handle problems at sea. Whether it’s taking on water, a loss of power or stormy weather, they will know just what to do without panicking. These captains can troubleshoot and fix systems even if that means something temporary just to get back to safe harbor.
A good captain is worth every dime you pay and probably more. I’ve been around a minute, and I’ve seen some stupid stuff. For all you owners out there, if you’re getting ridiculous invoices from service companies that are costing you thousands of dollars annually about things that should be addressed by your captain, you might want to pause and rethink the situation.
Owners that have good captains should compensate them accordingly. Take note of the money he saves you by not calling for service for every little thing that goes wrong. If he takes care of things himself when operating 800 and 1000 hours per year while not leaving the country, that’s a lot of hours of maintenance so keep that in mind.
If your captain is doing all that and keeping a good attitude, pay the man. Good captains can make or break an owner. I’ve seen owners get out of the fishing business just because of a bad crew. So, to answer the question of how much to pay the captain…a good captain is worth what he asks for. Captains without a clue will cost you dearly in the long run.