What does it cost to hire a boat delivery captain?

This is Captain Paul Foer “ON THE FOERFRONT”

“What does it Boathandling lessons, instruction, training, course, coaching, classescost to hire a boat delivery captain?” This question is asked frequently in the boating community and as a boat captain, consultant and trainer, I know that my web page about “costs” is the most frequently visited page on my site. Of course I understand that cost is a consideration when a boat owner is in need of a professional to move his point from Point A to Point B, but I find it difficult to understand why cost is often foremost on the boat owner’s mind. One would think that a whole host of other concerns such as experience and qualifications would be foremost in a boat owner’s mind when about to entrust his or her prized possession to another person.

So, “what does it cost to hire a boat delivery captain?” The answer is that it depends–it depends on what you are willing to pay for experience, skill, training, maturity etc. when you are about to entrust your prized possession to another person. The real question should be “How much will hiring the best captain save me in terms of time, hassle and grief” and “How much will hiring the least qualified really cost me?” Yet many of the requests I receive from boat owners go something such as this: “I have a boat in (location) and I need to get it to (location). What will it cost?  I am not making this up.
Sometimes the requests come with no further information, sometimes not even saying if it is a power or sail boat, its length, when they want it to be delivered etc. So of course I have to pump the boat owner for details in order to assess as much as I can about whether I can even be available for the job, much less provide a proposal. This takes my time. But how much time should I provide for free when someone appears to be looking to hire solely based on price?

I try to respond to every request immediately and will often devote a lot of my time–without compensation of course–to answer questions, provide information, learn about the boat and then provide a basic proposal. Sometimes the owner has a secretary, friend or spouse even make the call and without any knowledge of the boat–and I have to go through the process all over again when he or she calls. And often, all they want to know is the bottom line. Do these same people who are poking around for blind quotes to control and move and take responsibility for their expensive and prized possession make similar requests when looking to hire other professionals?  In other words do all they care about or ask for is “what does it cost?”. That is often the case.

Imagine this happening if you were a caterer. A caller says “I’m doing a big party. What will it cost to feed everyone?” or for an architect? “What will it cost to design my house?”  How about for an accountant? “What will you charge me to do my taxes?” How about a doctor and a knee replacement! A lawyer and a divorce case! Don’t they at least want to know who you are, how long you have been doing this and what is your background? You can see how odd and problematic and confounding such a request would seem to those professionals. I would think that treating these situations and these professionals in the manner that so many boat owners (and even those considering buying a boat!) have approached me over the years would be cause for confounding laughter, dismay or outright rejection.  Yet I receive perhaps 30 such inquiries, or more, for every one that leads to gainful employment. And they all take up a lot of my time and energy, uncompensated of course, while I not only provide a great deal of information on my website, but I find I end up competing with others in my field of work (dare I call them professionals?) who promote themselves as being the “cheapest” or they are retired, or a hobbyist, are independently wealthy or perhaps that they are just, well plain old boat bums.

First off, it’s hard to make a living as a boat delivery captain for a variety of reasons and I am not going to use this column as a bitch sheet. I like what I do and sometimes it is great work, but it is work and it keeps me moving and as such, away from home.  I have to work in any and all conditions, must clear my schedule, pack and then unpack and the days are long and hard and sometimes I have to get on boats that are not ready to go–and may never be ready and other problems can ensue. I need training, specialized clothing and gear and it is physically and intellectually demanding.

I also tell owners right up front that I charge more than other so-called professionals and that they will get what they pay for if they hire the lowest priced “competitor”. I bring an enormous amount of skill and experience and in addition to possessing a federal license (not even doctors, lawyers or accountants have that) but more qualifications and certifications (I won’t bore you with the details here) and have been certified drug-free for decades. In addition, I provide complimentary phone and email consulting and on-site consulting if the boat is near me, in order to guarantee a safe trip and that the boat will be ready on time. I charge for the day I expect to travel and inspect and prepare the boat–and by the way, ever boat owner insists his or her boat is in perfect shape and ready to go. It never is. let me repeat that. IT NEVER IS IN PERFECT SHAPE OR READY TO GO.

“But I had it surveyed” they tell me. That’s nice. And where is the surveyor now I ask? He is at home of course, having been paid for the ten-page fill-in-the-blank survey, half of which was legalese and boilerplate conditions exonerating the surveyor for any errors or omissions. Yet I am the one who has to get on the boat and take it somewhere, so there is always a day to travel and inspect. And same for the last day–a day to secure, clean and head home.

Sometimes on a delivery the fuel fees alone will exceed my professional fees and I tell this to the owner. Recently this happened with the owner of a twin-diesel powerboat and after a phone call from his clueless fiancee and then from him, I provided a detailed proposal within hours (It was a busy day for me but he wanted to leave a week later). I offered to meet with him and inspect the boat a few days later at no charge if he gave me a deposit. His curt reply was simply “that’s too much”.  What was the CEO of a $136 million company (he told me that information) expecting?  He then told me he would rather take “a few days off work” and do it himself. Hmm. I had estimated the trip to take from 7-8 days, and I seriously doubt, SERIOUSLY DOUBT he would do it faster than I would do it. What was he expecting?

But a boat is an expensive luxury item. We love our boats but they are fancy and costly toys in the final analysis so here is the bottom line. Many persons can buy a boat but not all of them can actually afford to own nor should they own a boat. A boat owner can either afford to purchase a boat without concern for delivery costs or he or she should not buy that boat. A boat owner who needs to shop around based on price alone should find a different hobby but even golf and lily ponds can be expensive and you may still need to hire professionals.  If boat owners need and desire a labor market for professionals to operate their boats when they cannot, they must be willing to pay to maintain this labor market. That’s the way it works for everything else so why not boating?  Well, sometimes the owner can find “a friend” to do it or some guy who hangs around the dock. My advice is BEWARE. If you want a professional, hire a professional and pay a professional.

Boat owners routinely pay $80, $100 or even more per hour for professionals to work on their boats. That’s per hour, often with a service call fee, and they go home at the end of the day. A delivery skipper is working for you around the clock and away from home, so if my daily fees, my 24-hour fees that is to say, approach $20 or $25 per hour or more,–and may even include a qualified mate at that price, you can imagine why someone in my position reacts unfavorably when a boat owner cries “too expensive!”. Sure, part of that time I am sleeping, but I am normally operating that boat from 10-15 hours per day, so should I not be getting at least $30 to $40 per hour for those hours?

When you contact me, please know that I do not provide “blind quotes”. I answer every such email that asks “what does it cost” but I insist on speaking with the owner, and learning as much as I can about the boat. It is a distinct “red flag” when the client does not provide his or her phone number and merely asks about costs.  I want each inquiry to lead to a job of course but I have found that I must balance how I respond to such inquiries.

And one last piece of advice please. I’ve been at this for a long time and have seen a lot of unusual if not crazy things come by my email and phone account, not to mention some equally crazy experiences with boats and boat owners. If I get the distinct impression, as has happened many, many times that you are bottom fishing and will make your decision based solely on my costs versus those of my so-called competitors, I’m going to politely steer you away from me.  You deserve a quality, experienced and mature professional and I deserve a job with an owner that respects me and is willing to pay me for the skill and ability I have to provide a quality service. After all, how did you and the boat owner manage to get to the point where you could have a boat and hire a professional? Probably not by taking lowest bid on jobs and providing discounts but by working, improving your skills, learning, competing in the marketplace–and competing on many levels of which price is just one.

This is Captain Paul Foer “ON THE FOERFRONT”. Please visit my website at www.foerfront.com



4 Responses so far.

  1. Captain George Brereton says:

    Bravo. Well written & true. You can go with a low bid on a construction project and use a contract or the law to see to the contract terms. Once things go wrong on a vessel delivery, your sole remedy might be your insurance, and that is a subject for another article.

    • Darren Mastro says:

      So enjoyed that! You nailed it Cap. Budget yachting ends up costing the pennypinchers way more in the long run. The last delivery I quoted to a newbie owner, thought I was too much & he & his maven could do it….I had to lol when after 1 day in they called me back begging me to takeover. Typical….When will they learn? Keep up the good work Capt. Paul…Cheers 👍👍

  2. Amy Winters says:

    Thank you for writing such a great article about boat transportation and hiring a boat delivery captain. As I was reading your article, you write about how a lot of clients focus on cost, when they should focus on experience or qualifications. As someone who has never owned a boat, I do agree that relying on the right professional for boat transportation is probably in the best interest of the client.

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