The Triton


When do captains know when it’s time for a change?


Some captains stay in the industry for the long haul, possibly until they retire. Others do not, moving on to other things, a different life.

What are the signs? When is it time?

Leaving the industry, depending on your perspective, could look rather frightening or appear as a shiny, happy vision. What are you thinking? How are you feeling?

It’s safe to say that in the majority of cases, it’s going to be the mental factors rather than the physical that moves a captain to a new chapter in life. If you’re physically and mentally healthy, you could captain a yacht through your 60s and yes, into your 70s. I see some pretty active and sharp men and women in their early 70s these days that I have no doubt could physically handle the job.

Let’s face it, we don’t have to manually raise an anchor or a giant mainsail anymore. Yet they have to manage and understand their industry, but after 30 or so years on the job, they probably have a pretty good handle on things. There might be a need for the old skipper to take a break on certain days, but that’s cool in my eyes.

So unless there is a chronic physical problem, I don’t believe the physical demands are what get captains looking elsewhere for their livelihood. More likely, it’s what’s going on in the brain.

There is an ancient philosophy in life that states our lives follow our thoughts. In other words, what you focus your thoughts upon, what is made important and predominant, will direct our lives and sooner or later come to be.

That said, where do you think you are heading when your predominant thoughts are about changing situations or careers? I can tell you. As soon as you direct your focus, attention and efforts in a specific direction, that is where you’re going. Thoughts, the mental side of our lives and careers, are steering the ship.

The signs for making a change are when you find yourself thinking about it, and thinking about it a lot. The time for the change will make itself clear. There is an old saying in sailing: When do you know when you should reef your sails? When you start thinking you should reef your sails.

Sometimes the direction ahead is clear, but sometimes we don’t have all the answers. Sometimes you just have to stop doing what you’re doing.

The position of captain on a large yacht is a management position. There’s a lot to know and a lot to manage. I am constantly impressed with the knowledge and skills of a great captain. They manage the yacht and the crew, but they don’t own the yacht. There is an owner and that relationship can definitely affect how a captain is feeling and thinking.

To simplify, a captain’s mental state and job satisfaction often goes like this: good owner equals good gig, bad owner equals bad gig. A captain can survive or manage to deal with a bad owner but from what some captain clients of mine say, a bad owner is the No. 1 cause of stress and dissatisfaction in their lives and can become unworkable.

Captains with great owners are usually pretty content with things and have few complaints. Those are the good situations that will keep captains around for years. I experienced it personally in my captain life. A difficult owner can become a pretty powerful force in your day-to-day operation. A great owner can make you feel like you’ve got one of the best jobs on the planet.

So here is the distinction that must be understood when it comes to staying or going in this industry: It is the clear understanding of whether it is just this owner and this yacht that is making you question this career or is it the lifestyle in general that is driving your discontent?

Would you still love what you do if you could just change the current situation? Or are you just tired of the lifestyle itself? Maybe you want to be home more, be around a significant other more. Maybe a yard and a dog are sounding good.

If you are thinking those thoughts, guess what? Changes are a coming.


Rob Gannon is a 25-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach ( Comments on this column are welcome at

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