After weeks of deliberation alas you've made a decision to charter for your upcoming vacation. How cool! You and your charter captain have connected and you couldn't feel better about unplugging the cell phone, leaving the computer at home, and just enjoying some old fashioned relaxation out on the open seas. Congratulations, the first big step is now behind you. Now comes the planning phase. Which destinations will you visit? The Marquesas Keys? The Dry Tortugas? Maybe some snorkeling at Western Sambo Reef or paddle-boarding through the mangrove tunnels at Boca Grande Key? What happens if weather moves in? How much food should you plan on buying? How will you know the best spots to fish? What's the best way to grill up your freshly caught mahi or snapper? Is that part of your captain’s job?
Tipping customs can vary, especially by industry and geography. Unfortunately charter tipping isn’t as clear-cut as the bar and restaurant industry in the United States. Remember all those planning questions we just mentioned? Consider each of those to be a tick mark for or against a more generous tip. Have you also considered what your captain might do behind the scenes?
Checking engine and generator oil prior to and throughout your charter
Checking water and fuel levels to ensure boat is properly provisioned for your bareboat charter
Checking power systems to ensure batteries and critical gear/appliances work properly
Conducting systems checks to ensure engine(s), generator, A/C, navigation gear, electronics all work properly
Reviewing vessel maintenance logs for areas of concern
Creating and filing of a float plan with the charter operator
Direct communications with the bareboat operator to ensure unique features or behaviors of the vessel and its systems are understood prior to your charter departure
Weather monitoring leading up to and during your charter to ensure safe passage
Waking up overnight to ensure the anchor remains set and the boat isn’t drifting or swinging into dangerous territory
In addition to the areas mentioned above that you don’t typically see first hand, captains often-times go far above and beyond to ensure your sail is relaxing, enjoyable, and memorable.
Did your captain:
…operate the vessel with skill? Was the vessel damaged while under his/her care?
…assist in entertaining the group? How well did children get along with him/her?
…help you consider destination options before your arrival?
…help cook and clean the dishes?
…identify fishing spots and fish types, and/or help your group to fish?
…encounter unexpected weather and perform well under pressure? Did he or she remain calm?
…help provision the vessel with food and water?
…help with inflating/deflating paddle boards, rafts, and other related boat amenities?
…encounter maintenance issues during the charter? If yes, were they able to resolve the issue successfully? Did he/she remain calm?
How much should I tip?
Charter captains and crew all have varying roles on the vessel, from cooking and cleaning to operating the vessel and everything in between. If your captain seems to be doing exactly what you hired him/her to do, nothing more or nothing less, then a 10% tip on the value of the charter is perfectly appropriate. The reality on most vessels 55 feet and under is you’ll hire a single captain, which means they’ll likely be taking on the duties of several crew, so keep that in mind when tipping. The table below illustrates a few guidelines and general principles when considering a tip for your captain.
Should I tip in cash?
Technology has been a major contributing factor in tipping over the last 10 years, however alongside those advancements comes processing fees. As is the case with other service industries, most captains will take a tip using any method you feel comfortable with, though cash tips are always appreciated. Don’t carry cash? No problem, consider asking your captain if he/she uses fee-free electronic payments such as Venmo, Cash App, Apple Pay, and Zelle amongst others.
Be prepared for passion, don’t hesitate to be generous!
Most captains do what they do not because it generates incredible wealth, but because they have a passion for sailing that outweighs anything that money affords them. Their passion for sailing and building relationships with clients are what drive their happiness, and they oftentimes gauge performance using tips as a metric. If your captain was everything you hoped for and more, don’t hesitate to offer them some love as your generosity will not only go a long way financially, but you’ll fill their heart with joy in ways you can’t imagine.