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7 Attributes of a Charter Sailboat/Motor Yacht Captain – Stay Cool No Matter What

So you are thinking of becoming a charter boat captain, but do you possess the temperament to be successful? Now that you have qualified for your captain’s ticket it’s time to command your own vessel and with a willing crew make your first charter a success. A great trip is usually measured by the size of the gratuity you receive at the end of the charter from your very grateful guests. Here are a few characteristics which you are hopefully blessed with and will help to make it easier to satisfy your passengers expectations. If you do not apply them, then your first charter may end in misery.

Here are 7 wow traits guests love in their captain.

1) Confidence

You must give an impression of complete confidence when you meet your charterers for the first time, even though you maybe a bundle of nerves. Many of your guests have never been on a sail boat/ motor yacht or for that matter any boat before. They will be looking for reassurance when meeting you, the stranger in his nice looking uniform, for the first time. You will be taking charge of them for about a week, so you better look self-assured. They definitely do not want to see a nervous wreck upon their arrival. To help you focus before boarding time, take a few deep breaths as you quickly run through a short prepared welcoming speech. Do not let old salts intimidate you no matter how much boating experiences they claim to have. Without being rude quiety carry on doing your thing because it is your ship.


Hopefully you have a very patient personality. Your guests will test you to your limits with endless questions, demands – some of them quite outrages – and foolish things they do get up to. You must constantly remind yourself that they are on holiday and blowing off steam and what may seem silly to you, especially if you are on your 4th or 5th charter in a row and feeling pretty drained, you must not try to show it. My way of getting rid of the stress is to go for a looooong snorkel. Watching the steady rhythm of swimming fish quickly calms me down.

3) Smile

If you cannot smile and see the funny side of most things taking place on the yacht no matter how ridiculous, then you are heading for trouble. Your guests do not want to know about your problems and as we all know, on a boat there will be many of them. Weather, mechanical breakdowns, bad moods etc. are not your guests worries so even as you watch things going pear shape, keep smiling and then smile some more pretending everything is cool as you mentally start creating plans to handle the mishaps .

4) Tolerance.

Be especially tolerant when teaching your guests how to climb in and out of the dinghy. Many people are for various reasons not very agile and you must be very tolerant at these times. Unfortunately I am also guilty of sending guests into the drink, luckily with hilarious results. I have however seen guests get hurt in these instances, some needing medical attention, so always take care.

When taking your guests diving for the first time from the boat, be aware that many of them have either very little experience or not have dived for years. The first dive is always critical to a successful charter, Now you can address any fears or aprehention they may be feeling. Make sure that everyone takes their time, give clear concise instructions and be very tolerant with those struggling.

5) Neatness

I cringe when I see how some captains meet their passengers for the first time, dressed and looking as if they are still playing a part in a pirate movie. Maybe one or two of them can carry it off but most of the time it looks silly and disrespectful. As captain and crew we sometimes have a get together at the end of a charter and here I find that it is usually these alternative fellows who consistently complain about their lack of tips and also that his guests treat him, the captain, with total disrespect. Bit like calling the kettle black! You and your Ship should always be kept neat and tidy but without being to obsessive so that your guests start feeling uncomfortable. As Captain you have to keep some measure of discipline so that if there is a crisis the guests will respond to your commands without question. At the end of the day it is your command and you are responsible for the vessel and everyone’s safety.

6) Discipline

You will find that there are captains who seem to think that only they can be the life and sole of every party, 24/7. Perhaps they think that their guests are encapable of enjoying themselves without their often embarrassing presence. How sad it is to see the master of the ship being brought back drunk to the boat by his guests. It is the captain’s job to guide and point his charterers in the direction of fun and entertaining places where they can safely enjoy themselves. The guests will sometimes try to tempt you as captain to let your hair down, and why not. Just remember that when on charter you are always on duty and that the safety of the guests and ship must always come first. You may feel that by not letting your hair down you are disappointing them but I know from experience that they respect your self discipline and often express their gratitude in a dollar filled envelope to share between you and your crew.

7) Be Happy

You have to be a happy captain all the time. This is hard work for some but happy captains’ have happy crews which then rubs of on the guests, resulting in a happy charter. You will continually be reminded by them that you have the DREAM JOB and if you are doing it right, then they are right on the money, so be happy.

If you feel you have and can make use of most of these characteristics then I know that your days as a charter boat captain will be immensely satisfying, well rewarded and when you decide to move on you will always remember them as the days of your life.

Frank Rijkers is a Certified Yachtmaster Offshore who has sailed the oceans around world in his home built 34ft sailing yacht (Footloose). As charter boat skipper in the Caribbean and as captain on private yachts, go to for some cool ideas on yacht safety.

Frank Rijkers is a Certified Yachtmaster Offshore who has sailed the oceans around world in his home built 34ft sailing yacht (Footloose). As charter boat skipper in the Caribbean and as captain on private yachts, go to for some cool ideas on yacht safety.

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