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Retirement job driving dive boats?

Discussion in 'Becoming a Captain' started by 2airishuman, Dec 20, 2019.

  1. 2airishuman

    2airishuman Contributor

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Greater Minnesota
    Some years from now I plan to retire from my day job. I anticipate that I will meet the experience requirements for 100 ton master before then. I could easily pass the exam and meet the other requirements.

    I realize that many jobs in the dive industry pay a pittance and attract people who love diving but don't need much money. Are the captain's jobs any better? Do there tend to be job openings for ordinary people (with applicable experience and licensing), or are these jobs mostly given to family members and close friends of whoever owns the boat?

    Seems like a better seasonal gig in retirement, potentially, than selling T-shirts.
  2. Johnoly

    Johnoly Contributor

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Besides small 6pk charters, I don't think I can name even 1 dive boat charter captain who is a directly related family member of the owner in JUP/WPB area. Down here it is a seasonal busy business, but there are plenty of openings for local captains when slow. Although it varies depending on duties, but with a USCG Master license and proper certs,,A captain averages $150-175 per 2 tank trip plus variable % of tips. That may sound nice, but you may only run 150 - 225 trips a year. Also most capts are required to do fluid changes, maintenance, haul-outs, bottom scrape & paint, etc, etc, but good to ask ahead of time. Lastly,, ALL CAPTAINS TALK TO EACH OTHER !!!. You'll find out quickly about busy boats with openings. It's also not unusual for capts to go to competitor's boats and captain. I know one capt that has worked on 8 boats in a 10 mile area. So never burn a bridge.

    Driving a dive boat is easy. Learning to bite your tongue and smile at the same time is the hard part. If you can do that, you'll do well in Florida.
  3. Ghost95

    Ghost95 Contributor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Florida
    Jobs are available to run boats in the tourist areas. Some places seem to have more owner captains than others. The owner captains tend to have smaller 6Pack boats, in my experience anyway.
    Captains do tend to move around from season to season so in answer to your question, yes I think someone with the experience and license could get a job. There other things to consider...Is this something you really want to do? You will still make a pittance and you won't get to dive.

    My first commercial vessel job was running a 6pack boat so, here's my 2 cents.

    On one hand, captain jobs are great because, well, you're the captain. What you say goes. You can take people to neat places that other boats don't go to, you occasionally meet some really interesting people, and you get paid to spend your days on the water! What could be better?

    On the other hand, captain jobs suck because you're the captain. You don't get paid much, your divers don't usually have the experience to go to the cool places you want to show them so you end up running all your trips to the same old spots over and over, and, in general, allot of people aren't all that interesting. Also you are ultimately responsible for everyone's safety, boat maintenance, and running the boat.

    6Pack boats are easier because there is no USCG inspection to go through. Also, less people.

    Will the divers have a dive master? Will there be a deckhand to help out? Or will you be by yourself like many 6 pack charters are? Can you handle a dive emergency AND the boat?

    Being in charge of everyone's safety is something I would look at very carefully before you decide to do this. Allot of divers that show up at your boat will tell you that they've been diving for 10 years. Well, they've actually been certified for ten years and have exactly 17 dives with 6 being in a quarry and the rest being beach dives in the springs somewhere. They'll have no idea how to ascend or descend using an anchor line, set up their gear, or navigate in anything less than crystal clear water. You WILL end up chasing them down on the surface when they get lost. Regardless of your brief they'll run out of air, crash into a sea urchin, or end up doing a free ascent somewhere other than your anchor line. What do you do when you have 4 divers doing a safety stop on the anchor line and 2 divers, 100 yards behind the boat in a panic because they're drifting away?

    Someone may get bent. Someone may cut their finger off. Someone may not equalize their mask on an 80' dive and surface looking like a monster with blood red eyes. Can you handle being responsible for these things?

    You know CPR? Not afraid to use it?

    Other thoughts and things to consider. (Primarily from 6Pack boat experience)

    Your boat or the owners boat will get beat up. Tanks and weights will get dropped on the deck and crack it. Tanks and weights will also get dropped on your feet and crack them too.

    Someone will show up with twin LP 300's for a 60' dive and expect you to load them on the boat. You'll hurt your back.

    The boat will break down. If you're lucky it will break down before you leave the dock.

    You won't be lucky.

    You'll cancel a dive because of weather and your charter will call you a pussy because it's just a little storm.

    You'll go out in marginal weather because you don't want your charter to think you're a pussy. Your charter will call you insane for going out in a hurricane.

    You'll get puked on.

    A diver will loose their mask because they put it on their forehead even though you told them to keep it on until they got back in the boat. It will be your fault.

    A diver will drop their weight belt on their mask and crack it. (at least it wasn't your foot). It will be your fault.

    A wife will be in tears because she got yelled at for following your instructions that keep her safe. Her husband has 5 boat dives and knows more than you do and yelled at her for not listening to him even though what he said would have gotten her hurt.

    Never get between a husband and wife unless you're ready to come to blows.

    Same for kids and fathers.

    Did you know that 80% of divers are terrified about a back roll entry? They haven't ever done one.

    Did you know that that same 80% of divers can't properly execute a giant stride entry without almost hitting their tank on a swim platform and knocking themselves silly?

    How do they expect to get in the water?

    Yes, there will be blood.

    Most divers are cheap and don't tip worth a damn. The already spent all their money on gear and the cost of the trip, that should be enough, right?

    A divers poor buoyancy control is the captains fault. That's why they got the sea urchin spine in their knee. Bet you didn't know that did you?

    You cant choose your customers...unfortunately.

    You won't get to dive.

    The list goes on and on.

    Now for some of the good.

    You'll be on the water. You'll be at marinas early in the morning. One of my favorite places and times to be.
    Some people will realize you're a professional and they'll listen and have a great time.
    Most people won't get hurt.
    Women and kids are usually great divers if allowed to go at their own pace and not get pushed into something they're not comfortable with.
    Some husbands are great with their wives and kids.
    Some people will really appreciate you taking time to give them a good dive brief. You won't have to chase them.
    Some people won't try and destroy your boat or your foot.
    Some people will thank you for showing them, their wife, their kid a good day.
    You'll be happy when you see your repeat customers.
    A cold beer at the marina after everyone is home safe is GREAT.
    A cold beer at the marina listening to stories with a couple customers who listened and had a great day is EVEN BETTER!!!

    Honestly, I don't think I would run charters for divers again. I wouldn't trade my experience running the boat for anything in the world but to do it again....no. Although I can say that running divers made me a much better charter customer.

    If you're really a people person and can deal with the responsibility that rests on your shoulders, give it a shot. I don' t know your background but you need to remember that these people aren't like a crew. They don't take orders like a crew would. The people you deal with are on vacation. They paid to be there and they want to do what they want. And before everyone gets all pissy, no not EVERYONE acts that way on vacation but many,many of them do. It's a sense of entitlement I guess.

    One last piece of advice...Our law for spotting the problem child divers before you even load the boat goes something like this...

    A diver's ability is inversely proportional to the number of patches, stickers, badges, and hats they have on that say they know what they're doing.

    That guy that shows up with the PADI wind breaker with the huge embroidered emblem on the back and enough speciality chevrons on his arms to make a Master Sargent proud, that guy with all the Truk lagoon, Galapagos, Titanic Dive Club, stickers on his tank, that guy who can barely hold his head up straight because the NAUI hat has so many pins that say wreck diver, deep diver, whatever, that is the guy you'll have to chase down on the surface because he got lost. That is the guy who will run out of air. That is the guy who will loose his mask. That is the guy you'll have to rescue.

    Good luck if you decide to try this. It can be fun. It can also get you jaded if you let it.
  4. Wookie

    Wookie Curmudgeon Apprentice ScubaBoard Business Sponsor ScubaBoard Supporter

    ^^^^Can’t add a thing to either of those responses.
  5. Graeme Fraser

    Graeme Fraser Contributor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Narnia
    Probably the best response to a post I've read on SB. Brilliant!
  6. Goingforsound

    Goingforsound Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Philippines / Burkina Faso
    This response made my day :D

    Thank you!
    Bert van den Berg and Ghost95 like this.
  7. Edward3c

    Edward3c Instructor, Scuba

    Sounded like driving the club rib.

    Appitional for a RIB. you missed out preping before leaving storage, towing, launching, recovery washing down and de-rigging to put back into storage. 12 will want to do the diving, but none want to help with the boat.
    Diving Dubai and Hoyden like this.
  8. Ghost95

    Ghost95 Contributor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Florida
    Oh, I bet you could add a thing or two. Anyone who's run a charter could probably add their own list.
    Johnoly likes this.
  9. Johnoly

    Johnoly Contributor

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Excellent Post!!.........Just one important thing I'll add to the list that most captains are required to endure..

    " You'll be named in a lawsuit or CG investigation for actions that were the diver's fault "
  10. Hank49

    Hank49 Contributor

    I'm not a professional boat captain but I have a big family.
    10 years ago, it was me and my son and an friend or two, going out spearfishing in my boat.
    NOW?!?!?. Neighbor kids, son's girlfriend, my 10 year old and 5 year old....it's a bit of stress. It's something I don't look forward to. There are no legal issues but I am responsible for everyone. Set the anchor, check the current, where the hell is everyone? Who swam off in every direction....
    It's a serious job. Maybe I'm just getting old....:(

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