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Triton Survey: Boat car

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This month’s survey comes at the suggestion of a captain who takes delivery of his fourth Chevy Tahoe in service to the owner. It’s the captain’s personal vehicle, but used for a long commute to the boat and to the owner’s homes.

While the captain pays the car loan and insurance, the yacht covers gas, tune-ups and things like new brakes. This captain was curious how other captains and yachts handle work-related transportation.

So we asked.

More than 100 yacht captains took our survey this month and the answers were as varied as yacht programs themselves. The majority of our respondents run vessels 140 feet or smaller, which may explain some of these answers.

With that in mind, we began by asking Do you use your personal vehicle for work-related purposes?

More than 60 percent do, with the largest portion (24 percent) saying they usually do. Almost as many (23.1 percent) always do. About 16 percent said they sometimes do.

“I offered at the start of employment to use my personal vehicle as the boat’s vehicle, as long as the owner paid for all vehicle expenses,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “This arrangement has worked well for the last three vessels that I have worked aboard. When we are away from our home port, we rent vehicles as needed, at cost to the owner.”

“We’re a low-budget operation and do not have a boat/crew car,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “We only get a rental car for boat/crew purposes when crewing up for an owner’s trip.”

Among comments included with this question, many respondents said they use their personal vehicle even when there is a boat car available, some because they prefer their car to the boat car, and some because it’s more convenient.

“We have a crew car but we prefer to use our truck as it has more room for larger supplies as well as pulling a trailer with our motorcycles when we move,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 10 years..

“There is a boat vehicle available but if I am out doing something for myself and need to stop and collect something for the boat because it is on route, then I will,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “I will not make a separate trip. It also works the other way around.”

“I always have a crew car but sometimes we need additional transportation for errands,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet who sometimes uses a personal vehicle for work. “The boat pays for the fuel for work-related consumption.”

“My car is nicer than the boat car; sometimes I prefer to use it,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet who does not often use a personal vehicle. “If I am coming from or going home, I will run errands with my vehicle.”

About 16 percent of respondents said they never use their car; 7.7 percent more said they don’t even own a car.

“When I interview, I ask about a vehicle for boat purposes, supplies, crew pick up and delivery, etc.,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “I require some type of transportation for the vessel’s use. Never do I offer my personal vehicle, from past experience.”

“We always have a vehicle provided by the owner to use for boat business,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 15 years.

“Did this too many times in the past and got taken advantage of so I do not do this anymore,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years.

“As part of my employment package, I am provided with a vehicle,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 25 years. “It is leased in the ship’s name but I can use it for my own use. The chief engineer and chef have similar vehicles.”

“I sold my car more than 10 years ago,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “I have had a car provided by my past two employers. One was purchased for the boat and my personal use; the current chooses to rent on a monthly bases. The one that was owned would be shipped to New England each season and would follow the boat.”

“A car comes with the job as captain, and all gas and repairs are taken care of by the company,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “The crew have access to this vehicle, if necessary.”

About 12.5 percent said they don’t often use their car.

“The boat supplies a car or rental,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “I do have my own car so it occasionally gets used for boating issues.”

When we looked at the answers to this question only from captains on yachts larger than 140 feet, the answers were flipped, with more than 60 percent never, not often or sometimes using their personal vehicle.

“On the rare occasions the boat is in Ft. Lauderdale, I will get my car and use it for boat business (because I like it better than boat cars) and leave the boat car/s for the other crew,” said the captain of a yacht 180-200 feet in yachting more than 15 years.

The number of captains of large yachts who don’t even own a car more than doubled to 17.2 percent (vs. 7.7 percent among all captains).

Since most of our respondents do use their personal vehicles for work-related transportation, we asked How are things like gas and tune-ups handled?

The most common response (28.6 percent of captains) was that the yacht/owner reimburses the captains for some things.

The majority of the rest of the captains, however, said the yacht pays through a boat credit card for all car-related expenses (22.2 percent), some car-related expenses (22.2 percent) and most car-related expenses (19 percent).

“I get $500 a month for car expenses,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 15 years.

“I have a $30-per-day allowance for my car to cover insurance and regular maintenance,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet who usually uses his personal vehicle for work. “I charge the gas on a boat credit card.”

We did not include an option that the boat or owner would not pay or reimburse for any expenses, but several captains indicated that was true for them.

“My personal car is not covered for any expenses under the yacht expenses,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 10 years who always uses a personal vehicle for work.

“The owner pays for nothing,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 25 years who also always uses a personal vehicle.

For many others, the bulk of “some things reimbursed” was gas only.

Once again looking at just captains of vessels larger than 140 feet, more than half said the boat pays for everything (33.3 percent) or some things (20 percent). Just 20 percent are reimbursed for some things. About 13.3 percent said most things are covered

We were curious, for those captains who use their personal vehicle for boat-related purposes, Do you let crew drive it?

Most (62 percent) don’t. The bulk of the rest (35 percent) will let some of their crew drive their car.

“For the captain to provide a car for use by the vessel’s crew for boat business or otherwise exposes the captain to an unacceptable and probably uninsured risk,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “The captain should be prudent about generating rental car expenses, and only allow appropriate drivers to use the rental car, but he should not shoulder the liability risk. Yacht owners can afford to hire a rental car when necessary to conduct vessel business.”

Among larger vessels, the results were flipped, with most captains (53 percent) letting some crew use their car. Forty percent won’t.

If other crew do use the vehicle, we wondered Do you have special liability insurance?

Most (86.4 percent) don’t. The same held true among captains on larger yachts, where 80 percent said they do not have special insurance, despite the fact that they are more likely to let crew drive their car.

Because yachts and cars aren’t always in the same place, we asked When you do not have access to your personal vehicle, how do you manage work-related transportation?

Renting was far and away the most common choice, chosen by two-thirds of our captain respondents. (On larger vessels, it was even higher at 80 percent.)

“We created a corporate account with Enterprise, which allows all crew members to be covered under the vehicle’s and our own insurance,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet who sold his car 10 years ago.

Taxis were a likely option for about 15 percent of respondents, as were “other” options, also at 15 percent.

“Whatever works,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “I do what I have to do to get the job done.”

“When in Florida, I have access to one of the boss’s personal vehicles,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 20 years.

Catching a ride with a colleague was not at all popular with just 3 percent of respondents getting around that way.

Again, we didn’t think to include the option that work-related transportation would not be covered by the vessel, but for a few captains, that’s the case.

There are likely a hundred scenarios of yachts and cars and captains. We tried to ask straightforward questions to get a sense of any commonalities. We were curious Does your vessel own at least one vehicle that you and/or the crew can use?

Most, nearly 60 percent, do not.

When we looked at larger vessels (larger than 140 feet), we were surprised to learn that even more — 66.6 percent — do not own at least one vehicle. But still, a third do.

“Our vessel has three cars so myself and the chief mate have what is essentially our own vehicles,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 15 years.

What about renting? Does your vessel rent at least one vehicle that you and/or the crew can use?

Most (about 80 percent) do. The most common response, for a third of our captains, was that yes, the vessel will rent a car in some ports.

“Boss supplies vehicle for all boat activities, but crew has to find their own way for pleasure and their time off,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years. “There’s too much risk to let crew use as they please.”

About a quarter more said the vessel will rent a car, but only occasionally. And about 22 percent of captains said they get a rental car in every port. Almost as many said they do not get rental cars when they leave their home port.

Renting vehicles was more common, in general, with larger vessels. About half the captains on yachts larger than 140 feet said the yacht rents vessels in some ports, with 26 percent more saying they rent vehicles in every port they visit. Just 7 percent said they do not get rental cars when they leave their home port.

Regardless of the specific details of a bat car, we wanted to know Is your situation with a work-related vehicle ideal?

Two-thirds of our captains said yes, it is. Among captains on larger vessels, an even greater 85 percent said they were satisfied with their work-related vehicle situation.

“Yes, as some of the gas paid for I get to use personally,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet..

“I’ve been very fortunate,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet. “I’ve always had a car provided at no expense to me for both boat and personal use.”

“New Tahoe every 6,000 miles,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet. “The owner is a car dealer.”

“Not having a vehicle is not usually an issue,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet. “We do spend six months in the Bahamas and when the family is there, we have issues as I have to work around when they’re not using their car there to run boat errands. It’s rarely a major issue until I have it and then they want it back, asap.”

“It would be great to have a vehicle that is paid for by the boat but I make some concessions to have a limited travel schedule, work five days a week and go home every night (except during trips),” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.

Still, some noted the situation could bear some improvement.

“Would like wear and tear such as brakes, tune ups and tires compensated for,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 30 years.

“It’s fair, but not ideal,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet who uses a personal vehicle and get paid for boat-related mileage.

“We drag a box trailer at times and this can put a lot of wear on the personal vehicle,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet. “The truck engine is too small to tow.”

“I am exposing myself to a liability issue if the insurance company finds out what I am doing,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet who usually uses a personal vehicle and gets most things reimbursed.

So is there an industry standard about boat cars? Should there be? Two-thirds of our respondents said no, there is no standard nor could there be one.

“No industry standard,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 10 years and who always uses a personal vehicle. “There are too many different scenarios and types of programs to create a standard.”

“It should be up to each individual owner,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 10 years who usually uses a personal vehicle.

“No need for an industry standard,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 25 years who never uses a personal vehicle. “Whatever works for one vessel might not work for another.”

And yet, they suggested standards nonetheless.

“With the variation of situations, I don’t see how there could possibly be an industry standard,” said the captain of a yacht 180-200 feet in yachting more than 15 years who sometimes uses  a personal vehicle. “If you are lucky enough to live ashore and travel to and from the boat each day, use your own vehicle. If you live on board and drive on boat business, the boat covers it.”

“The word ‘standard’ and yachting seldom collide, and I hate when anyone tries to set standards for such lavishness as yachting,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 30 years who does not often use a personal vehicle for work. “But I feel that any decent program would supply a vehicle for the yacht. The amount of running around can be significant, i.e.: hunting for parts, supplies, groceries, airport pickups, etc. In my case, boat vehicles are part of my pay. It was negotiated when I was hired.”

About half of those who said there can be no standard acknowledged that every situation can be negotiated with the owner from the beginning.

“This should be negotiated at the beginning of employment and agreed to by the parties involved,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 25 years who always uses a personal vehicle. “I am not interested in any standards. We already live and work in a culture of increasing standards and regulation. I am comfortable negotiating my own standard operating procedures.”

“There really can’t be an industry standard for obvious reasons, but my personal philosophy is that I don’t use a vehicle that I own and maintain to do the boat’s business,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 15 years. “That would amount to a discount of my salary. My past employers have always made it part of my overall package, along with health insurance, time off, etc.”

“It is negotiable with the owner, and boat specific,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 15 years who sometimes uses a personal vehicle. “Be firm. You will end up using your car for boat errands, parts pick up, provisioning, airport pick ups, etc.”

“It depends, as always, on the individual contract or compensation package,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 20 years who never uses a personal vehicle for work. “Some owners use company vehicle as a part or in lieu of salary increases.”

“I keep hearing ‘industry standards’ being spouted, but usually it is for some benefit that a captain or crew member thinks they deserve,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 25 years who usually uses a personal vehicle for work. “We are afforded a lot of freedom and many privileges. I suggest having a realistic conversation with the owner and agreeing on a set of guidelines that is beneficial to both parties.”

The other third of our responding captains felt, quite simply, that work-related transportation should be covered by the yacht, and that should be a standard for the industry.

“Yes, all yachts should have or rent a vehicle when in port,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 25 years who never uses a personal vehicle for work.

“Unfortunately, there is no industry standard with anything anymore in our business, although there should be,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 30 years who sometimes uses a personal vehicle.

“Most boats that have a semi-regular home port should have a dedicated boat vehicle paid for by the owner,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 20 years who usually uses a personal vehicle for work.

“It usually goes with the quality of the job,” said the captain of a yacht larger than 220 feet in yachting more than 30 years who rarely uses a personal vehicle for work. “Owners who expect you to provide transportation are either new to having crew or are restricted by their budget (cheap). And it often shows up in other aspects of how they fund their crew and yacht.”

“Yes, of course there should be one,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 25 years who always uses a personal vehicle for work. “But we captains who use our own vehicles are at fault by not demanding a company car or, at the very least, getting reimbursed for gas and repairs.”

Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments on this survey are welcome at lucy@the-triton.com. We conduct our monthly surveys online. All captains and crew members are welcome to participate. If you haven’t been invited to take our surveys and would like to be, e-mail lucy@the-triton.com to be added.

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