Crew Advice

Ask Captain Kelly: Advice on Tipping Practices on Board

1 June 2023 By Staff Report

Have a tricky onboard situation you’d like an outsider’s perspective on? Have a burning career question? We can help!

Welcome to Dockwalk’s Ask Captain Kelly advice column, where we post your questions and get insight from a current captain, Capt. Kelly J. Gordon. Capt. Kelly currently works aboard M/Y Freddy but grew up in a small town in Indiana. Her path into yachting began in Beaufort, North Carolina, where she now claims as home base. She’s a former chemistry professor and loves to teach — while she takes pride in her ability as a motor yacht captain, she has a soft spot for young adults, especially those that come with questions. 

This week‘s question deals with a tough situation on board — how to handle the issue of tipping if the captain takes more than an equal share?

Q: We’re a fairly busy charter yacht and I need your advice. Is it common for the captain to take a larger share of the charter tips the crew receive? On all the other boats I’ve ever worked on, we split the tip equally between all crewmembers, but maybe I’ve missed something. Is this a new practice? And if not, how do I diplomatically call him out on it?

A: Great question! I run a busy charter boat, too, and unfortunately, it is common for captains to take a little off the top for themselves and then split the tip — it is wrong. We are in this together, we are a team, and this leads to low crew morale and sometimes resentment towards the captain.

If you can’t already tell, this is something that really grinds my gears. Before I offer my advice on how to handle this, let me say that it works both ways. I recently had a chef receive a much larger tip than the rest of the crew. I still maintained that we split the tip evenly across the crew, but he disagreed.

How is that fair? It’s not. So, please do think about that if it was to happen in the reverse — let’s say the charter guest was really fond of the second stew or deckhand. You would still want the tip split evenly. But what if you were the one to receive more? Would you be upset if I asked you to share evenly?

To answer your question, I am adamant that the tip is ALWAYS split evenly. We are a team and being part of a team that’s working towards a great tip includes everyone on the vessel, regardless of rank.

To answer your other question on how to diplomatically call them out is tough, however. Ask the captain if you are correct in your assumption that tips are split evenly. They will likely say yes. The conversation will probably end there, and you will see a change.

If not, simply ask why they choose to take a larger portion of the tips and express that you don’t think it’s fair and it’s not the agreement that was made amongst all crew. Do this with a respectful tone, however, as it will get you much further, even if they do get offended by you questioning them.

If you want to get her advice, please email and you could see your questions and her answers featured here. All personal information will remain anonymous.

More related
Ask Captain Kelly: How Should I Deal with Being a Young HOD?
Ask Captain Kelly: How Should I Deal with a Captain Drinking on Charter?
Ask Captain Kelly: Being a Woman on Deck
Ask Captain Kelly: How Do I Handle Witnessing Racism?
Ask Captain Kelly: How Do I Best Get Started in the Industry?
Ask Captain Kelly: How Should I Deal With Guests That Cross the Line?
Ask Captain Kelly: How Should I Deal with Conflict in the Crew?
Ask Captain Kelly: Advice for Handling Crew Dating
Capt. Kelly Gordon: From Chemistry Professor to Superyacht Captain


More from Dockwalk