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Advice on changing careers to captain for an old guy.

Discussion in 'Licensing & Education' started by Navy Ken, Mar 21, 2019.

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  1. Navy Ken

    Navy Ken New Member

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    Mar 21, 2019
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    Virginia Beach, Va
    I have been looking at the forums here, lot of nice folks, and I have seen several threads on how to become a captain for hire. Most of these were by or directed towards younger people. I'm 45 and I want a career change. I am tired of repairing ships and submarines and want to drive yachts (the shipyard is going to be the death of me.) I was an electrician in the US Navy for 20 years, of that 13 was sea time, but I never stood bridge watch so the USCG told me none of my sea time counts. What licencees do I need and how do I get experience driving the 70'+ boats. I'm good at reading charts, but need practice with COLREGs but my nightmare is docking some guys toy and drifting it hard into a pier. Again I'm 45, and don't have another 30 years learn and still have a career.
    Thanks
    Ken
  2. Sea Gull

    Sea Gull Member

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    The answer is no different at 45, than 25. It depends on what you want to do with the ticket. You might get by with a six pack, but you may also need a 100-200 ton master’s. In either case, you need sea service and the commensurate boat handling experience. 360 or 720 days at sea could take 3 years or more to accomplish.

    If you want to drive a charter boat out of Virginia Beach, you need a 6 pack. If you want to deliver my boat up and down the coast, you technically don’t need a license, but most owners only hire masters with practical experience. If you want to be the live aboard captain of a 70 footer in private or charter service... well, you need your head examined.

    My suggestion is to start off by going somewhere, other than where you want to work, to get that experience. When you’re qualified and able, come back to your primary market and promote yourself as a qualified candidate. Otherwise, you’ll always have the reputation of that mid-life crisis dude who is just learning.

    Just my 2 cents.
  3. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    Without any sea time, your best bet is to start as a mate, learn and build sea time. Then you can get your OUPV (six pack), build more time and experience towards your master

    Regardless it will take a few years till you anyone will trust you to their boat. Instance underwriters always require a resume listing your boating experience before they accept to cover you on a boat policy. 15 to 20’ increments is pretty much the limit... no insurer will accept you as a captain on a 70 footer out of the blue.
  4. Kapn

    Kapn Member

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    Annapolis
    Some of the captains that I've met came at it later in life. Showing up with a well defined work ethic and the ability to learn is important. So much of what it takes to be a freelance captain is having your head screwed on right. I thought the captains license, rules of the road knowledge was the most important part of this job. But then I realized that it's being able to live in a small space with a total stranger as your boss, in stressful situations, for long periods of time. There are busy captains that are able to handle different personalities and ultimately get recommended for work and there are grumpy know it alls who "tell it like it is to the rich boat owners". They're usually the ones who don't have much work lined up.
    As far as making a living, it's going to be slow at first. Will you have retirement benefits? Health insurance would be a nice thing to have secured before making the change.
  5. Navy Ken

    Navy Ken New Member

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    Thank you Kapn

    I do have my Navy retirement and medical so that is not a worry. As to the
    Well that sounds like what I did for 20 years in the Navy. I just need to work on my debt and start figuring out how to get sea time on big boats though I just had an idea on that.
    Ken
  6. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    You're going to have to get a job as a mate on a busy yacht that moves around a bit. Hopefully one where the Captain will give you time at the helm and teach you how to navigate and so forth. You're going to need to build seatime and experience rather quickly. How do you know you will even like working on yachts?
  7. Navy Ken

    Navy Ken New Member

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    I have worked in, on and around ships since I was 18. I'm 45 now. Ships and boats are all I know. I just want to get out of the ship yard and back to sea. Fixing ships pays well but its dirty hard work that beats you down. I live in Hampton Roads VA currently and there are allot of day tour boats in the 100' range and I think two dinner cruise boats. I am hoping I can work out a deal where I work for free in my off-time in exchange for endorsements and training. I learned how to navigate when I was in the navy but because I did that on my own and it was not my primary job the Coast Guard would not count my sea time. I need to polish up on navigation aids and COLREGs because I have not looked at them in a very long time but I think that will come back quick enough.
  8. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    Have you previously ever worked in the hospitality industry?

    That's mostly a rhetorical question, but priority #1 in boat crewing is Safety and #2 is fulfilling the wishes of the guests, whether owners or charter. It requires a skill in accommodation and communication skills you've not previously been challenged to us. For instance, if the owner wants to do something specific that you feel is a bad idea, can you not just convince the owner to change his mind, but convince the owner that the new plan was his idea, not yours, so he takes ownership. On the other hand are you willing to say no to the owner if you deem something unsafe, even at the risk of losing your job.

    Every member of a yacht crew is part of the hospitality industry, just as much as they are the boating industry.
  9. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    O B is pointing at one of the harder points of private yacht & private yacht charters. Hospitality is a much more demanding job that working on or pushing a boat.
    I gave that idea up long ago.
    I still have a customer base I spoil, but it's a very narrow niche and I get away with most of it.
    Gratefully, I'm not on their crew.
  10. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    OB made a very good point about the hospitality side of the business. We ve been doing charters for about 12 years or so and had never been in the hospitality business before. We actually like it. We get to meet many interesting and nice people, many are repeats and a few have become friends. I don’t think it requires any special skills.

    As to the ability of saying no, in all these years I ve yet to be in a situation where an owner of charterer tries to overide my usage of the word “No”. Charterers are paying big money to have a good time and entrust the captain with their safety as well as their friends or family’s. In addition to that, Owners trust their captain with a multimillion dollars asset. If one of their request or desire is unsafe, unreasonable, or would result in an uncomfortable time, they are not going to override the captains decision. And if they do, it s not someone i d want to work for.

    Over the years, I ve had many requests to cross or go somewhere in iffy weather , anchor in places that wouldn’t work out, tie at unsafe docks, etc. once the problem is explained, people understand and quickly drop the idea
  11. nilo

    nilo Senior Member

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    Although it is somewhat mentioned, please consider that running a yacht as a captain is more a management of crew, logistics and entertainment and procurement. Navigation, including safety issues is taken granted as a given.
  12. Kapn

    Kapn Member

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    There are always some big boats transiting Norfolk in the spring. Start hanging around Atlantic Yacht Basin and Ocean Yacht Marine to chat with captains. You might find yourself invited to spend a few days on delivery if they are short handed.

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