Without question, captains range in experience level despite holding the paperwork stating that they are qualified captains from the US Coast Guard. I have seen 500-ton captains who are not nearly as capable of driving boats as 6-Pack licensed captains. With that said, it is imperative to interview a boat captain for hire, no matter if it is for a day trip or overnight adventure on a private boat. Here is how to interview a boat captain for hire.

When And When Not To Interview A Captain

Importantly, you won’t need to interview a captain every time you step on a vessel for an adventure. 

However, there are times when you should have an in-depth conversation with the person operating the boat. Remember, you’re putting your life in their hands. Here is when and when not to interview captains. 

When Not To Interview Captains

One of the most notable to make the list is when planning a cruise with a cruise line. First, you won’t ever be able to access the captain, and second, the crew of cruise ships are highly qualified. 

Another scenario is headboats. Headboats carry large groups of people either for pleasure trips, fishing adventures, out to reefs for snorkeling or scuba diving, and more. No need to question the captain, as this is not a private boat adventure. 

When To Interview Captains

There are a few scenarios in which you should determine how qualified a captain is before boarding the boat. For the most part, they are specific to private trips with friends and family. 

In the event you’re renting a boat and heading out for the day with a captain for hire, I highly recommend digging deep into their experience. Secondly, if you’re chartering a vessel for an overnight or multinight cruise, I suggest learning about their qualifications. 

Why Should You Interview A Captain

The answer as to why you should interview a captain is simple: because you are potentially putting your life and your friends or family’s lives in danger. 

Without question, you must avoid getting into harm’s way by paying someone to do a task that they are incapable of performing. Unfortunately, boating accidents do occur, and recreational boaters do not always cause them. Instead, certified captains are also the culprits for deadly incidents on the water. 

What Should The Interview Process Consist Of

If you’re planning a private boat adventure, it is important to ask specific questions directly related to experience. Here is what you should determine before agreeing to hire the captain. 

Do They Have A Valid US Coast Guard License

One of the most important pieces of information is whether or not the person has a US Coast Guard captain’s license. Yes, people offer the service of being a “captain” without actually having a license. 

With that said, I recommend asking to see the license. The captain is required to carry the documentation at all times aboard the boat. Also, ensure that the license has not expired. 

How Experienced Are They In Local Waters

One thing that is often overlooked is how experienced the captain is in local waters. You can’t expect the most highly experienced captain to be confident in unfamiliar areas. 

On that note, ask the captain how long they have been operating boats on local waters. In most cases, they will be highly experienced in local waters, having grown up in that specific coastal town. 

In the event that they are not familiar with the waters, I suggest finding an alternative to reduce your chances of an incident.  

How Familiar Are They With The Vessel

Vessel familiarity is critical when it comes to safety. As a captain myself, I had to become familiar with boats when switching from vessel to vessel. Often, I would transition from large yachts to mid-sized sportfishing boats. That said, I had to take time to familiarize myself. 

Remember, its not just experience driving the type of vessel but understanding the onboard safety systems and equipment. These include life jackets, life rafts, fire prevention system, fire fighting equipment, and more. 

The captain should know where all life saving equipment is and how to utilize the equipment if a dangerous scenario occurs. As a captain, we would run drills frequently. Because of this, I was prepared in the event of an emergency. 

Know You Know How To Interview A Boat Captain For Hire

The next time you’re planning a trip with a captain for hire, I highly recommend asking the captain a series of questions to determine their level of qualification. Without question, safety is of the utmost importance. Lastly, remember to tip your captain after the trip.