Sometimes people have a boat located at Point A that they need at Point B and do not have the time themselves to do the move. People purchase a boat in one place and need it to be in another, and they need help with the move. If a boat is much different than a new owner has previous experience with their insurance company might want a sign-off by a licensed Captain that the new owner had the basic skills needed before they are allowed to sail “solo”. For what ever reason, sometimes people need the services of a “Delivery Captain.”
I have done deliveries many times. Sometimes Karen comes along as crew, sometimes the owner(s) are the crew. Most of the deliveries I do are of Amel yachts, and that’s because that is the sailing community where I have the most connections. But other sailboats, and even power boats are welcome.
For many new owners, a delivery with an experienced Captain along is an opportunity to quickly learn the boat, sailing, and a lot of nitty-gritty details about long range cruising. As a wise person once said:
Smart people learn from their mistakes. Wise people learn from other people’s mistakes.
How it Works
Most Delivery Captains are independent, and can have their own way of doing things. Typically, they charge by the day, or sometimes by the mile. Trips much longer than average are sometimes quoted at a fixed price. Expenses for travel, living, and boat costs are billed through at cost without markup. Typically, the contract is executed with an advance payment of 50% of the expected charges, not including expenses.
A detailed contract should be presented as part of the initial quote process. Costs and expectations should be clear. Do read them. Do not hesitate to bring up any of the contract points for discussion or negotiation. If there is a hard budget for the total cost, the time to discuss that is up front, NOT at the end of everything when you get the final invoice.
You should expect the contract to specify some of the minimum gear expected to be onboard the boat. Pay careful attention to this. The Captain included this list because he considers it minimum required for the safety of the boat and crew. If there are deficiencies that will not be corrected before the Captain picks up the boat it is important to discuss them ahead of time.
The captain will expect to be named as an “also insured” on your policy, and he should have credentials ready to submit to your insurance company for their approval. The completion of this paper work can take longer than you expect, so get it started as soon as possible. No responsible captain will leave the dock without the insurance issue being settled.
As part of the quote evaluation, consider the travel costs involved. If your boat is starting and/or ending its voyage in a remote location, bringing a captain in and getting him home again might be a significant part of the cost. Hiring a skipper to sail a boat from the Canary Islands to Antigua will require a significant travel budget. A delivery from Miami, Florida to Annapolis, Maryland, not so much.
Understand that travel expenses can be expensive, and difficult to predict. This can be especially true at the end of a long delivery. It is not unusual that a delivery with an expected time at sea of 10 days can easily take 12 days, and then add on a potential delay of a week for weather before departure, and you realize that you can not know with certainty the final arrival date. There are a couple strategies to deal with this, and for potentially expensive travel, the boat owner should be in the loop on whatever decisions are made, since he will be paying the bill!
The primary issue with any delivery is usually the condition of the boat. Especially for long passages, ensuring the boat is really ready to spend a week or more at sea is a MUCH more complex and comprehensive inspection than the typical survey done in support of a purchase. Starting from scratch, getting a boat ready for sea can take several days of hard work. Inspections, testing systems, maybe a short trial run, getting provisions aboard.. all take time.
On most of the deliveries I have been involved with the owner(s) have been along. There are some delivery skippers who joke (maybe it’s not a joke?) that they charge extra for that. I enjoy to opportunity to meet and interact with people on this level. I honestly enjoy the chance to teach people about their new boat, and give them a flavor of what cruising can be like.
Finding the Right Fit
Finding the right delivery skipper for you and your boat can be a challenge, especially if you as the owner want to go along on the sail. It is essential that everybody onboard gets along for the length of the trip. A captain with a good background in boat repair and maintenance is important, and can make the difference between a on-time delivery and and large boatyard bill from somewhere half-way along. Familiarity with boat’s like yours is a good thing. In many cases it is not REQUIRED that the Captain have a formal license, but that does give you a bit of an assurance that the individual takes his profession seriously. It will also smooth the process for insurance approval.
Do not be afraid to ask for contact information from previous clients.