Crew Advice

Ask Captain Kelly: How Should I Deal with a Captain Drinking on Charter?

24 February 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 a captain who gets intoxicated on charter.

Q: I recently switched boats and on a recent charter, I noticed some odd behavior from the captain on the first night of charter. At first, I didn’t pay too much attention, but I then realized he was drunk. We were already set for the evening, so I was able to get him to retire early, but I was panicking. What do I do when I know my captain is operating the vessel while intoxicated? Do I report him? How do I get him to stop this behavior?

A: Ohhh, this is such a tough one! This is so scary as so many lives are in the hands of the captain. Truthfully, I don’t think you can get him/her to stop this behavior. Even if you do approach them, they will be dismissive and may become aggressive.

You must realize that if they are drunk while operating the vessel, they have an alcohol problem and you confronting them will likely not help. They will need professional help. However, this doesn’t mean that you must stand by helplessly.

Speak to the chief officer and let him/her know what you have discovered. The chief officer should be capable of handling the vessel in an emergency, so the safety of the crew and guests is somewhat covered in this situation. Now, I know there are so many different scenarios here and how this could all play out in the moment, but I think the main question here is: Do you report them?

Yes, you have to and you cannot be concerned about the repercussions. You will need to go straight to the owner or manager and let them know what is happening. There’s a good chance that they have no idea this is going on.You should expect them to investigate your concern and take action. If they don’t, this is not a vessel or owner that you want to be working for.

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.

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Capt. Kelly Gordon: From Chemistry Professor to Superyacht Captain


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