Finding the Right Boat Captain for Your Vessel

Finding the Right Boat Captain for Your Vessel

By Katie Flanagan   October 14, 2021


For first-time yacht owners, hiring the right boat captain and crew can be a daunting task. Hiring a yacht captain, in general, is a major decision. This could even impact the longevity of someone owning a personal yacht. It is important for new owners to not only find a captain and crew, but find a captain and crew that are the right fit for their yacht and how it will be used. These decisions are paramount so that your overall yacht ownership experience is a good one.  


Each yacht and owner’s expectations vary. However, our team sat with a handpicked group of professional yacht brokers at HMY Yacht Sales that also hold their captain's licenses and asked what attributes make a good captain and what recommendations they would give to new yacht owners in search of their right captain. From sportfish captains that traveled the United States Eastern seaboard, Cabo, and Costa Rica to motor yacht captains who traveled to Alaska and through the Panama Canal. We believe their stories will provide additional guidance in your search for not just any yacht captain, but the right yacht captain for your yacht.   

Glenn Clyatt, an HMY Yacht Sales Professional and captain hailing from Miami, has spent over 25 years as a captain traveling to destinations north and south along the eastern coastline of the United States, as well as Costa Rica, Cabo, and the Bahamas. Glenn not only brings his Captain’s experience of running a variety of sportfish to the table but also his experience of owning a charter operation in the Florida Keys. Glenn has owned his charter fishing operation at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida for twenty-three years.

HMY Yacht Sales Professional Glenn Clyatt at the Helm

When asked what recommendations he has for new boat owners looking to hire a Captain, Glenn offered his valuable insight.    

“When it comes to sportfishing, a working interview is a good idea. This not only allows you to get a feel for the captain’s personality but also see how he works and runs a boat.” 

Clyatt also mentioned, “Every fishing operation operates in its own fashion, and making sure your style aligns with the captain can be extremely helpful.”  

Glenn also stressed the importance of expectations. “Honesty is important, not only the captain but for the owner as well. When hiring a captain, it is important that you lay it all out there and be clear with your expectations.”  

Some yacht programs require captains to be gone for long intervals of time while traveling to yachting destinations or fishing tournaments. “It is important that owners express their needs when hiring a captain to confirm that the captain can perform and meet their expectations,” said Clyatt. This includes both tasks and travel. 

Motor yacht running in a circle on the water

Ale Navarro, an HMY Yacht Sales Professional, captained both charter yacht operations and private yacht programs in South Florida. When asked what he thought was important when hiring a captain, he stressed the “human part of the job.”  

“When hiring a captain, it is important to keep in mind that many captains are equipped with the mechanical knowledge, and skills to run a vessel. However, an owner must find a captain that they can relate to regarding the human part of the job.”  

TIPS: Ask yourself the following questions. 

1.     Does the captain I’m hiring understand my schedule and timeline? 

2.     Does the captain I am hiring understand my family’s needs? “The most difficult part of the business, and the most important part of being a captain is the captain understanding the sense of urgency and adapting and relating to the owner. Understanding his privacy, his needs, his eat with them, you spend time with them on board. This  aspect of a captain is the most difficult.” 

Being able to have a good relationship with your captain on a human level is something to consider when hiring a captain for your yacht. An owner needs to consider that he will be in close quarters offshore with this individual and the captain will be around family and friends. 

Ale Navarro at the helm of a yacht

Ale Navarro also suggests that owners sit down and have a face-to-face interview with potential hires for the captain position on their yacht. 

HMY Yacht Sales Professional Pat Kelly brings an important topic to our attention when looking to hire a captain. Times have changed and accountability and management are critical skills that yacht captains need to possess.  

“The value of boats has changed. The priorities of many boats have changed. Liabilities have changed. Part of hiring the right captain is making sure the captain has the skills to manage an appropriate budget for the boat to keep a handle on the finances on behalf of the owner, as well as managing other crew members.”  

Pat spent most of his days as a captain running a charter boat around the world, fishing world-renowned destinations in Mexico, St. Thomas, the Bahamas, the east coast of the United States, and Venezuela. 

HMY Yacht Sales Professional Pat Kelly Smiling

A captain and broker from HMY Yacht Sales, Simon Graham. Simon has an extensive yachting background. As a licensed captain, Simon sailed in waters from Alaska, Vancouver, through the Panama Canal, Florida, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, crossing the Atlantic several times and the Mediterranean. Simon worked for serial yacht owners who had 15 yachts all over fifty feet in the span of 10 years. He ran boats with overall lengths ranging from fifty feet all the way up to a 165-foot Mangusta powered with triple engine water jets. 

Graham suggests that owners in search of a yacht captain thoroughly interview their candidates. Working with a broker or a crew agency, or even referrals through word of mouth when looking for a captain are good avenues to venture down. 

Graham also suggests looking at a candidate's resume and considering the longevity of the captain's past employment. “Has the potential candidate worked on several yachts for short increments of time or only a few select vessels for extended periods?” 

The last thing that Graham stressed was having a healthy balance onboard. “It’s important to make sure the captain and crew make yachting enjoyable for the owners, that way the owners will want to keep coming back.” "It’s like a restaurant,” Graham explained. “It’s not just the food that makes you want to go eat there, but the familiar faces, the experience, and the atmosphere. The same thing goes for a yacht program. You want to have a great captain and crew that makes the experience enjoyable, and the owner feels comfortable on board.” 

HMY Yacht Sales Professional Simon Graham at the helm of a 92 Viking Sportfish

Many boat owners that don’t invest the time to find the right captain ultimately miss out on the amazing boating experience they really want. If you are looking for your first captain or a new captain, we hope the insights from our HMY experts help you answer your questions and get you started off in the right direction as you begin the selection process. If you are not quite ready to hire a captain, and still looking for a new boat, please view our inventory online at, or come back again to capture more yachting articles, podcasts, videos, and more. 

Get Info

Watch Price

Two Oceans E-Newsletter Sign-Up