How Much Does a Captain Earn?

Luxury yacht captains may earn a base salary well into six figures. Salaries mainly depend on the experience of the captain, level of licensing and the length of the vessel. So, how much does a captain earn?

The complexity of the position of the captain escalates as the length of a yacht increases. Many portray this job as one of leisure and luxury but it is not the case. This position comes with vast responsibility. Although exact job details vary, the captain is the head of the show. He/she reports only to the yacht owner.

Salary Guidelines

There is a variation within salary guidelines depending on license level, experience and years on the job.

Captain Level Size of Vessel Salary Range
Senior Master 170ft – 200ft+ $144,000 – $300,000
Captain 100ft – 100ft+ $84,000 – $180,000
Junior Captain 60ft – 100ft+ $48,000 – $98,000

Salary packages normally also include bonuses, health insurance, paid vacation, training and certifications and flight expenses. Crew is normally required to reside on board 24/7 so all food and daily necessities are provided.

Tips are many times given to captains from charter guests when the yacht is chartered out. Each vessel has its unique programs so things can vary within the industry.

Operating expenses for an average mega yacht (with 12 crew) are between $4-10 million. Budgets normally depend on where the vessel is moored, if it is available for charter and the travel destinations. In many cases separate management companies or the owner’s business network are involved to manage the financial decisions and accounting. However, in some instances the captain also manages the budget and takes all of these types of decisions.


Captains are responsible for everyone on-board, the vessel itself and the overall environment. In addition, captains must understand the on-board mechanics, tools, international regulatory requirements and rules of the flag state.

The Owners Objectives

Owner objectives are broad ranging and the captain represents the interests of the owner. Owners can have anywhere from simple to elaborate requirements. Some owners may use their yacht regularly with family and friends while others rarely board. Charter periods will also factor into the owners’ interest.

Selecting Crew

Procedures for contracting, dismissing and managing crew must be in strict adherence with the Marine Labour Convention (MLC). There must be a match between the crew, owner and vessel in terms of certification, experience and personality. Captains must assure the owners that issues of confidentiality are priority of all crew.

Managing Personnel

On superyachts it is quite standard to have between 12-40 regular crew. In addition, there may be day workers or seasonal hires and managing everyone is routine. Everyone from the stewardess to dive master ultimately report to the captain. The captain must have a working knowledge of the positions and set performance expectations.

Shipyard and Project Management

The captain oversees time and costs for routine maintenance.  He/she must have knowledge of flag requirements and register as these tools are necessary to obtain quotes and supervise any work on-board.

Legal and Regulatory

The captain must always be up to date with all Maritime Guidance Notices (MGN), Maritime Information Notes (MIN), and all international marine safety codes. Knowledge of global differences in regulations, regional mores and enforcement agencies is critical.


Each individual yacht has its own business model and at a minimum the captain must keep financial records and have an oversight of the budget. Captains communicate directly with management companies when they are involved.


Navigating the vessel is the classic definition of the captains’ job. Also, plotting and following course, docking and departing berths are all basic skills. Experienced captains has personal familiarity of marine geographies.

What Does it Take?

To reach the required performance levels to captain a superyacht, vast amounts of logged hours, dedication, decades of training, and certification are required.  Not to mention character and temperament.
Superyacht captains can assure the owner of the best yachting experience. The ultimate goal of all crew is to ensure the happiness of the owner and their guests.

A Career for Life

Superyacht captains command a salary based on responsibility and years of personal and professional development. There are relatively few positions on the market and longevity and experience are always rewarded.

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