Retirement job driving dive boats?

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360 for an Operator, 720 for a Master.

720 isn't quite accurate. :)
It's mostly accurate, but not all the way accurate, unless some things have changed.

If you live in an oil rig, it's less than 720 :)


Curmudgeon Apprentice
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720 isn't quite accurate. :)
It's mostly accurate, but not all the way accurate, unless some things have changed.

If you live in an oil rig, it's less than 720 :)
It’s still 720, but 12 hour days are counted as 1.5....


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It’s still 720, but 12 hour days are counted as 1.5....

Exactly right. So 480 days, which is how I got most of my days.


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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 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.


Every time I feel the urge to go down the OUPV owner-captain path, I re-read this post until the fever subsides.

If you'd care to write a financial version of this, I think I'd be cured forever.

Tom Winters

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Ah yes, getting a captain’s license and sealing with the Coast Guard.
In the Navy, I was a Fleet Officer of the Deck and once spent a full day coordinating the surface operations of two carrier battle groups in the South China sea.
When I decided to get a USCG license, I was going to get a Third Mate’s ticket since I had years of Navy at-sea time as the guy in charge of whatever watch I had.
The Coast Guard wouldn’t recognize my destroyer sea time as a squid, but my time running a 15’ inflatable military dive boat got me a seat at the 100-ton table. It was absolutely surreal dealing the license office in Honolulu.
Go figure.
I drove commercial boats in Hawaii for a couple of renewals but the third or fourth time it was time to renew, I just let it lapse. That was about the time I retired from everything anyway since after staying awake for 25 years with the Navy and my side jobs and investments, I was dog tired.
That was just about 20 years this month.
Good luck with driving boats sir. I made a lot of money doing that and never killed or injured anyone.


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Very interesting and candid thread we get to eavesdrop on. New perspective on how much the guy controlling the boat and needing years of experience is making to protect butts.

Ghost95s summary was hilarious and we, the other divers on the boat, were thinking the same thing about the I know it all guy.

Note to self: would be very interesting to talk to Tom Winters but never work for him. It's a death sentence

Capt Jim Wyatt

Hanging at the 10 Foot Stop
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Rainbow Reef Dive Shop, in Key Largo is now paying $95/trip - Tips range from $30/trip to as high as $70/trip that we were seeing over this Labor day week. I made a bit over $800 in tips in the 18 trips I ran over the holiday.


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I'm new to ScubaBoard, but have been SCUBA diving off and on since the early 1980s.
I'm intrigued by the possibility of captaining a dive boat, as a part-time retirement job. Still researching the steps I would need to take to achieve this. I most likely would end up taking the dreaded "Paper Tiger" route, and then training under someone who knows what they are doing, as far as captaining a dive boat is concerned.
IMO a "newly minted" Captains License holder has demonstrated they have an academic understanding of what it takes to be a captain of a marine vessel. They merely have been granted a license to learn, if you will.
This attitude is one that I carry over from my aviation experience (former Naval Aviator, now a pilot who flies for fun). Every license/certificate I've earned has been my license/certificate to learn how to become a better aircraft pilot.
I wouldn't be looking to get rich as a dive boat captain. It just seems like it would be an interesting retirement job.
Who knows what the future will hold....?


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Glad you're not looking to get rich. It would help if you didn't want to dive either. Now, I know it seems glamorous and all, you know, chasing lost divers, broken engines, getting yelled at, being covered in s**t when the heads break down or get completely plugged up, but sometimes there is actual work. After a dive you might actually have to sit and have a drink with a bikini clad costumer and listen to the details of their dive or you might even have to accept accept one of the lobster pushed on you by a charter that did well on a spot you took them too. Such are the demands of the job.

Unless you have sea time on a heavier vessel that you can use for qualifying time with the USCG, you'll probably be testing OUPV (6-pack). You can use time on your boat, a friends boat, or a family members boat to get the required minimum sea time. Yes you will be a paper tiger especially if you haven't worked as a deckhand on a charter but we all started somewhere. Remember, there is going to be a ton of knowledge, tips, and tricks, that you don't know that you don't know. I would recommend you try and find work, at least temporarily, as a deckhand and maybe a dive master to pick up on some of those tips and tricks and to learn the ropes and see if it's what you want to do.

As a Naval Aviator the tests should be nothing that poses a real challenge and handling a dive boat is probably not as "interesting" as trying to hit the third wire but it can have it's moments. More often the interesting part comes with all the curve balls that passengers can come up with that leave you scratching your head wondering how they even made it to the boat in the morning.

I think the course for the 6-pack can be completed in about a week or two and it's not really needed. You can find test prep courses on line that will get you the info. The 2 week class is just really a test prep and gets you used to seeing how the questions are presented and the info that is covered. To be honest, the classes are the easiest way to get the paper.

Good luck with your endeavors. It can be a lot of fun...sometimes.
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