As the economy has begun to shift and yachts began moving over the past couple of months, I have been struck by how many captains are responsible for more than one vessel. With good deals, it seems, some owners aren’t willing to wait for older or smaller vessels to sell before getting into their new one.
But it leaves captains juggling duties and responsibilities over several vessels, or does it?
We asked yacht captains in our monthly survey in November if they are responsible for more than one vessel (including the large tender they are often asked to tow), and if they are, what it means to their workload.
More than 80 captains responded and most manage the responsibilities of more than one vessel, whether it be a large tender or sportfish towed behind the mother ship, or two or more vessels that operate in their own right.
The surprise, they seemed to say, is that it’s not such a big deal.
“I’m responsible for a 70-foot Hatteras in one country and a 54-foot Bertram in another, but as an American captain with a lot of experience, it is not a problem,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years.
“If there are multiple owners or family members, using more than one boat at a time does increase all pressures, but as long as the money is available to handle the aforementioned demands, it shouldn’t be a big problem, said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet in yachting more than 30 years and with experience running two vessels for an owner.
“When you’re working for the right owner and he wants to move up in size, quality. etc., then it is not a problem because you want to support him,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet in yachting more than 15 years.
Currently, are you responsible for more than one vessel?
Forty-two percent of our respondents are. If we add those who tow a large tender or sportfish, we have 18 percent more, meaning 60 percent of our respondents are responsible for more than one large vessel.
The circumstances, of course, vary with everything from typical two-boat owners with one captain (the majority of respondents), to those owners building new while old boats sell, captains running yachts with large tenders, and lots of variety in the middle, including captains working for multiple owners at the same time.
“I run one owner’s 100-foot yacht and towed tender, and a 52-foot yacht for another owner, and another 50-foot yacht for yet another owner,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. “Two yachts on are one coast and are part time. The 100-footer is on the opposite coast, so I commute coast-to-coast across the United States.”
“One on the water, and one nearly built,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years.
“Three motoryachts greater than 24m and an array of vessels less than 24m,” said a captain in yachting more than 20 years working with a junior captain to manage four vessels.
“The owner had a 38m for 16 years; I have been his captain for 12,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years. “For eight months, I ran his 38m whilst we engaged in construction of a 50m. The 38m is now sold and I am fully committed to the new build.
“Last command, I had a 145-footer and a 120-footer,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years who now runs one yacht 160-180 feet.
“I run a 63-footer as well as the tender we tow,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years. “And let’s not forget the jet skis and rib as well.”
“Got the job and when I arrived, so did a 65-foot yacht in terrible condition,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years. “We also had a 45-foot tender. Both needed to have crew to move them.”
“Three boats, two tenders and I assist at the house in the Bahamas,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years.
“One yacht full time, but others that I maintain and operate for out-of-town owners,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years.
Most of the rest — 29 percent — have just the one vessel under their command, and for 10 percent of our respondents, the owner may have more than one vessel, but each has its own full-time captain.
Even if captains aren’t currently managing more than one vessel, we were curious if this was a condition that occurred often in yachting, so we asked Have you ever in your career been responsible for more than one vessel at a time?
Ninety percent said yes.
“In the past, I have ran multiple yachts for the same owner,” said a captain currently only running a yacht 100-120 feet. “The reason both times was buying and selling different yachts.
“I have done the multiple-vessel thing with one crew to cover both,” said a captain currently only running a yacht 140-160 feet.
“I ran two boats for the same owner twice,” said a captain in yachting more than 15 years.
“Anything you can fit on deck or tow behind,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. “Once you arrive, the playground is much larger given the towed tender.”
“A 116-foot yacht and a 94-foot yacht; went on for two years,” said a captain in yachting more than 20 years down to one yacht 120-140 feet.
If the frequency of managing multiple yachts didn’t surprise us, this certainly did: How is/was it, taking care of more than one yacht? Almost as many said it was fine as said it was a challenge. Few admitted to it being frustrating.
The largest group (40 percent) said it was a challenge to keep everything to the owner’s (and their own) standards.
“It was tough to keep everything working at 100 percent,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet that tows a large Intrepid. “Boats will be boats, and things break in the marine world.”
“Towing another vessel requires an experienced crew member to be off the yacht when they are needed for docking if the yacht is in the 40m range,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet that tows a 31-foot Contender.
“All vessels know that I manage several other boats, so they give me plenty of notice when they wish to use their boat,” said a freelance captain in yachting more than 25 years. “Two of the owners like to operate their own boat, but if weather is questionable they prefer I come along. When they are delayed in the islands and need to fly out promptly, they notify me as to where the boat is and ask me to go bring it back. I work pretty hard but I can juggle things favorably.”
Almost as many respondents (38 percent) said handling more than one vessel was just fine, mostly because money and manpower were adequate and usually, only one yacht was being used at a time.
“Three different, flexible owners, which allowed me to do all,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. “Created job security.”
“It’s all about 20-plus years of experience,” said a captain managing two yachts for two owners. “Instead of taking weeks to figure out a problem, it takes only hours.”
“If the big boat moves, the little boat goes with us,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet that tows a large tender or sportfish. “When we are docked, the little boat is used all the time.”
“We were busy and sometimes a little overloaded, but everything went smooth and we never had downtime from lack of maintenance,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet who previously managed two vessels with one crew. “The captain needs to speak up and be able to say ‘no’ to the owner when necessary. If more than one boat is too much to handle for someone, just move to a different situation. Why be miserable and complain or need to answer ‘frustrating’ to this question?”
“The insurance company only had one question for me: if one boat is out, where is the other boat?” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years whose last command was managing two yachts larger than 120 feet. “The answer was: tied to the dock.”
Just a fifth of our respondents reported that managing more than one yacht was frustrating, mostly because the owner doesn’t realize how much work it is.
“Every owner sees my job as a permanent vacation and does not believe me when I explain the amount of hours put in in a typical week,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years who in the past has run a 112-foot Westport, 32-foot Intrepid, and 14-foot RIB.
“Running two yachts with one set of crew was a challenge,” said a captain in yachting more than 20 years. “With budget constraints due to the economic situation six years ago, we were stretched to keep both yachts running. The 43m was in service for busy charter; the 30m was in poor condition due to neglect from the previous captain and the owner didn’t want to spend anything on it. It was a one-way slide downward.”
“Trying to get everything working with basically no budget to work with; it was a bit crazy,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years currently doing relief work.
Part of the hiccup with managing multiple vessels is manpower, so we asked Is there crew on each vessel?
Most, 59 percent, said no, that crew on the main vessel takes care of all vessels.
The next largest response, 25 percent, said while there was some crew on other vessels, there wasn’t enough to do everything.
Just 16 percent of our respondents said each vessel had enough crew to maintain them.
As silly as it sounds, we had to ask this question: Does managing more than one vessel mean more work for you?
Ninety-seven percent of our responding captains said yes, half of them noting that it wasn’t just more work for the captain but for the entire crew.
“Hectic, and no matter how good a job any of the crew ever did, it was simply a matter of getting those yachts sold,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years.
“Work gets prioritized,” said another captain in yachting more than 30 years. “The high-priority jobs get attention first then, if there’s time, the lesser jobs get looked at.”
“I think of it more in terms of managing an owner’s boat interests, not specifically one vessel,” said a captain responsible for several vessels less than 100 feet. “I’ve had owners lend me out to their friends before.”
“The extra time ate into the proper maintenance of the larger vessel, yet the owner still expected the same amount of work to be done and the vessel in top condition,” said a captain in yachting more than 20 years currently managing two vessels less than 160 feet. “The smaller vessel was for sale so there was even more pressure to keep it in good condition.”
“The configuration of our towed tender is such that two crew are required in the tender,” said the captain of a yacht 200-220 feet in yachting more than 20 years. “That’s the worst part, losing two crew whenever towing operations commence or terminate. At every docking, I’m down two crew.”
“Mostly, I just manage contractors, but if the job is small and quick I’ll tackle it,” said a freelance captain for several yachts in Ft. Lauderdale.
So why does an owner have more than one vessel? While overlapping until one sells is a likely scenario, we wondered how common it was, so we asked Is one or more of the vessels for sale?
Our respondents were nearly evenly split, with 51 percent handling an extra vessel for sale, most of whom noted it also means extra work.
“It’s always showroom ready,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years who is “babysitting” two yachts under 40m until they sell. “And there’s always someone around the corner as a potential buyer.”
“Having the vessel ‘for sale’ seems to grant the listing broker some special power to request repairs, refinishing, and standby 24/7 for sea trials at any time with 5 minutes’ notice,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years currently running one vessel. “He is a funny broker.”
“Frequent showings on boats means that everything has to be ready all the time,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting almost 20 years who also manages a 40m yacht for sale.
“Dealing with the broker makes it very difficult,” said a captain in charge of three vessels less than 80 feet.
“Maintenance has to be condensed to keep available for viewings,” said a captain of a yacht 140-160 feet involved in a new, larger build.
“The quicker it goes, the sooner the workload is back to normal,” said a captain in yachting more than 10 years currently running one vessel 80-100 feet. “Doing so brings in a lot of extra work due to viewings, sea trials and time wasters.”
But the other half of our respondents manage multiple vessels as part of their everyday job. It’s not a temporary situation while one boat sells.
As common as multiple vessel management is, we wondered Does your salary reflect the added responsibility, specifically?
Few of our respondents (19 percent) felt they were generously compensated for the added work of managing more than one vessel. Most, 48 percent, said flat out that they were not.
“Although I did get a raise with the new boat, there was nothing added for the extra work or footage I was responsible for,” said a captain running a new yacht 80-100 feet while managing a smaller vessel for sale.
A third more of our respondents said the salary sort of tried to compensate for the workload.
“I had to do boat shows as well as refit and run the new boat,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 20 years who previously ran more than one vessel. “I did not get any extra money during that overlap time, but I did receive a raise at our next annual anniversary that acknowledged the increased size of the new boat.”
When we asked this next question –– Do you feel adequately compensated? — we intended to get to the heart of whether captains were appreciated for their efforts to manage more than one vessel at a time. In addition to salary (as was asked about in the previous question), perhaps some other factor plays in.
And we weren’t disappointed. While the biggest group said their salary did not reflect the added workload, the biggest group here said they felt adequately compensated — sort of (46 percent).
Still, more than a third said they were not.
“The owner just loves to entertain, so fishing, sailing, and the pocket rocket all involve people being around him; he loves the limelight,” said a captain responsible for three vessels under 80 feet. “He loves his boats to be as near to perfect as possible, which is how I like to keep my boats, but to get the necessary funds, well, that’s where the owner and myself have a differing view of things. The owner once said to me ‘everyone who works for me makes me money; you cost me money.’ Jeez, go figure.”
Again, about 19 percent said yes, they felt adequately compensated.
As for the lesson learned, we discovered it’s less about the money. If you had it to do over, what one thing would you request when asked to oversee more than one vessel?
A full 45 percent said they would want more people involved in the process; half as many said more money. About 13 percent said more time, and only 3 percent said less use of the vessels.
Among the 15 percent of respondents who chose “other”, they were split between “all of the above” and “nothing, really” as managing more than one vessel wasn’t so difficult.
“My circumstance was unique,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. “It worked out for all; it was just hectic.”
“It went great,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years who once ran two yachts under 40m. “Time off was thin at times, but I enjoy what I do and that makes it easy to be good at it, as well as enjoyable.”
Among our respondents who do not currently manage more than one vessel nor have they ever in their careers, we asked Would you ever accept responsibility for more than one vessel?
One hundred percent said yes, they would, if that’s what the job required.
“Even if I would accept the job to take care of two or more boats,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet, “I think that every large yacht should have his own dedicated crew.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments on this survey are welcome at email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org to be added.