Being the captain of a luxury vessel can often be very rewarding. Of course, the money you receive is directly parallel to your experience, which enables you to undertake more responsibilities.
Earnings can differ from captain to captain, as the salary is never set in stone. It depends on the size of the yacht, your at-sea experience, your ability to command a crew efficiently, and even the tipping. As such, it is often hard to understand how much money you should be earning, and the numbers tend to differ from source to source (try Googling it!).
Naturally, you might be looking for more concrete indications regarding the salary you should be earning. This is exactly why we wrote this article! Whether it is the “expected salary” question in your job application, or simply personal research for industry averages, we’ve got you covered!
In this blog post, we break down all the factors that determine a super yacht captain salary and help you understand how much you should be earning.
Table of contents
- Superyacht captain salary tiers
- Calculating the salary of a yacht captain
- What is the average yacht captain salary?
- Chartered vs private yacht captain salary
- Additional benefits for yacht captains
- Wrapping Up
Superyacht captain salary tiers
As the length of your commanding vessel increases, so does the number of tasks and responsibilities. The complexity of your role and requirements vastly escalate as you go bigger, but so does your salary.
In short, a super yacht captain salary is broken down into several tiers, which are divided based on the size of the vessel. Generally speaking, here are the salary guidelines you should be looking at:
Note 1: The salary fluctuation within the tiers indicates the captain’s license level, experience, and longevity.
Note 2: These numbers represent the salary without any additional perks, which we discuss in the following chapters.
Calculating the salary of a yacht captain
Many might think that the income of a captain is very rewarding, especially when comparing the salary with other, high-level niche professions.
However, when calculating a (super) yacht captain salary, you need to take the following into consideration:
- 24/7 onboard. Captains spend all of their time on the vessel. They hold a position of responsibility even when not actually working. The salary should therefore reflect the increased number of work hours.
- Salary taxes. For most yacht captains, one of the biggest benefits of the job is that your income doesn’t get taxed. If, however, you are paying taxes in a particular country (e.g. freelance rental boat captains), income tax applies. This can take a huge bite from your profits.
- The level of experience. Captains are often split into three categories based on their level of experience: Junior captain, captain, and senior master. It is this experience level that both certifies and qualifies them to command larger vessels.
Therefore, you need to ask yourself the following questions before you decide on the salary you should be looking at:
- How much is my time worth, given my 24/7 employment and responsibilities onboard?
- How are my tax obligations structured and how will these affect my salary?
- Based on my experience and time at sea, am I more prone to receive the low or high-end of the salary tier I belong in?
For example, a junior captain that gets the opportunity to command a 25-meter yacht and has no tax obligations could see a €6,000 salary as a great opportunity to earn well, while gaining more experience.
On the contrary, a more experienced captain with additional certifications that needs to pay taxes is more likely to request €10,000 per month for the same job opportunity.
What is the average yacht captain salary?
According to YPI CREW salaries, a tool that estimates the industry average salary of yachting-related positions, 446 captains were surveyed to determine the average salary of a captain based on the tiers described above.
Before looking at the findings below, make sure to also review the limitations of the survey, as well as the different variables that were explored.
Highest average salary - The results of the study indicate that permanent contractors that command motor yachts of a length between 81-100m had the highest average salary, which ranks at €18,000 per month. If you’re looking for the high-end, superyacht captain salary, this is it.
Lowest average salary - Junior captains placed at both sailing and motor yachts smaller than 35m in length receive an average salary of €5,500 per month. This amount mostly refers to yacht captain salaries that are not yet qualified for larger vessels.
All other tiers fall somewhere in the middle and the average salary differs based on two factors:
- Whether the captain operates on a chartered vs private vessel
- Whether they hold a permanent position or are in rotation
As you can see, at the higher and lower ends of the spectrum, permanent captains of private vessels tend to earn more, while mid-range categories have a higher degree of fluctuation.
Note: M.Y. Captains refers to Motor Yacht Captains. S.Y. Captains refers to Sailing Yacht Captains.
Chartered vs private yacht captain salary
As you can see from the survey conducted by YPI CREWS, one of the variables that determine a captain’s salary is whether the yacht is chartered or privately owned.
When it comes to charter yacht captain salary (rental yachts), and thus temporary employment, there are two categories you need to keep in mind:
- Individual, freelance captains get paid on a day-to-day basis. These types of captains are sought out and hired by yacht owners through middlemen.
- Contract captains that receive a monthly salary. This category refers to seasonal jobs where an agency pays the captain for multiple trips during his employment period.
Private yacht captains are responsible for a single vessel and are paid on a monthly basis, holding a full-time contract.
If you end up working on a charter, you may receive tips or gifts from customers after their trip is concluded. On the contrary, employment on a private boat will generally result in higher basic income but little to no tipping.
You may also notice that private boat captains with a full-time job will have a more “corporate” structure of employment, including recurring free days and paid holidays. Captains of charter boats have more flexibility and freedom when it comes to the employment opportunities they want to take on, but holidays are usually impossible or very limited, and often unpaid.
Additional benefits for yacht captains
How much do yacht captains make? You should now have a better idea when it comes to the average salaries depending on the ship’s size. That being said, captains are able to enjoy more perks which translate into money:
- Yacht owners typically cover all onboard expenses, including food, uniforms, laundry, and even several types of insurance if the captain has full-time employment.
- Since captains live onboard, there are also no living expenses that need to be paid. Sure, the captain’s room may not be as spacious and comfortable as a 5-star hotel, but the money you save through this convenience makes it worthwhile.
- As mentioned previously, paid vacation days may also be offered depending on your contract type and the vessel’s schedule. For private yacht captains, it is typical to get 4 to 6 weeks of paid holidays per year and at least 1 free day per week.
- While charters may have less leniency for holidays, captains usually earn around 10-15% of the charter’s price in the form of tipping. If the vessel is larger, so is the crew, which means that the pot is split with them as well.
Finally, make sure to familiarize yourself with the local tax regulations to see if you can avoid paying taxes on your income. To increase your odds of earning a tax-free salary, it might be a good idea to consult with professional tax advisors specialized in the yachting industry.
After analyzing the different tiers of the average superyacht captain salary, you should now have a better idea of the category you belong in. The information above enables you to determine the salary you can request, and help you negotiate where needed.
To summarize, here are the numbers you should keep in mind:
- 20-40m boat - €5,000 to €10,000 per month based on experience and certifications;
- 40-60m boat - €7,000 to €16,000 per month based on experience and certifications;
- 60-80m boat - €14,000 per month minimum, based on experience and certifications;
- 80-100m boat - €16,000 per month minimum, based on experience and certifications.
If your job offer happens to pay less than the numbers mentioned above, make sure to also review all the additional perks you receive, as there are often many perks and bonuses “hidden” within your contract. You can then use this information to renegotiate your salary and hopefully agree on better terms.
And that’s it! If you want to further improve your chances of getting paid what you’re worth, make sure to also structure a well-organized yacht captain CV. This will help agencies and yacht owners get a better understanding of your experience and management skills.