Salary Guide

How Much Does a Yacht Captain Earn?

1 February 2022By Lauren Beck
captain epaulette

Written by

Lauren Beck

Editor Lauren Beck has been with Dockwalk since 2006. At 13, she left South Africa aboard a 34-foot sailing boat with her family and ended up in St. Maarten for six years. Before college, she worked as crew for a year, and then cut her journalistic teeth at Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies’ Home Journal online. She loves traveling, reading, tennis, and rooting for the Boston Red Sox. Email her at lauren@dockwalk.com.

Whether you are a captain on the lookout for new opportunities or a deckhand working your way up the career ladder, the Dockwalk Salary Survey is a helpful tool for knowing where you stand on pay. With the 2021 results now in, we find out how much yacht captains are earning around the world…

The Dockwalk Salary Survey

Our annual survey usually attracts the most responses from captains, and this year was no different with a total of 476 responses. Out of those, 336 shared their salary information. The average length of time those 476 captains have worked as captains was 14 years, with an average of 19 years spent in the industry. Most of the respondents — 89.3 percent to be precise — work on motor yachts and the vast majority — 76 percent — were based on private yachts.

Each year, the Dockwalk Salary Survey solicits real-time salary feedback to build a bigger picture of crew compensation and is an important tool for crew around the world. Infographic: Adam Price

It used to be that captains could count on approximately $1,000 per foot per year. But in reality, it's not so straightforward. As larger boats grow increasingly more complex, the requirements for a captain are generally much higher in terms of experience and licenses, and so captains on bigger vessels will naturally yield higher salaries. 

But, as they say, size isn’t everything and the same applies when it comes to compensation. Other factors such as time in the industry, whether the boat is chartered, and if the position is rotational, are also considered. Longevity, for example, is another important factor that is likely to determine pay; some experienced captains on relatively small vessels can earn excellent money. Plus, captains are often entitled to added extras such as bonuses, health insurance, travel expenses, paid vacation, training and certification, uniform, and tips.

How Much Does a Yacht Captain Earn?

*All salary data submitted in euros has been converted into dollars. The Dockwalk Salary Survey figures don’t account for crew benefit packages, tips, or similar extra remuneration. Infographic: Adam Price

Yachts Between 60ft and 99ft

According to data from the 2021 Salary Survey, captains working on vessels between 60- and 99-feet were earning an average of $8,002.01 per month, with a range of $3,105 to $20,000 per month. The average monthly tips earned by captains on yachts available for charter in this range was $1,374.

Yachts Between 100ft and 139ft

Captains working aboard vessels from 100- to 139-feet may expect to earn an average of $10,108.18 per month, with a range of $$1,725 to $20,000 per month, according to Salary Survey data. The average monthly tips earned by captains on yachts available for charter in this range was $1,612. 

Yachts Between 140ft and 179ft

Numbers from this year's salary survey reported that captains on yachts 140- to 179-feet could expect to earn an average of $14,166.31 per month, with a range of $5,750 to $34,500 per month. The average monthly tips earned by captains on charter yachts in this range was $2,988.

Yachts Between 180ft and 239ft

Captains on yachts in the 180- to 239-foot size category may expect to earn $16,147.26 on average per month, with a range of $9,200 to $23,250 per month. The average monthly tips earned by captains on charter yachts within this range was $3,653.

Yachts Between 240ft and 279ft

Captains working in the 240- to 279-foot size category might expect to receive an average of $15,473.58, with a range of $7,475 to $20,125 per month. The average monthly tips earned by captains on charter yachts in this range was $1,718.

Yachts Above 280ft

In our largest size category, captains on vessels 280 feet and larger could expect to earn an average of $20,540.91 per month, with a range of $9,200 to $32,000 per month. As there are not as many large vessels of this size, these jobs are usually reserved for highly skilled and experienced captains — and their pay reflects that. The average monthly tips earned by captains on charter yachts in this range was $5,600.

*Tip data is taken from captains working on board yachts available for charter

Captains on Rotation

Within our survey, out of all 476 captains who responded, 20.59 percent were on rotation. Rotation schedules ran the gamut from 1:1 to 4:4, and various other arrangements. Of those captains on rotation, 70 said that they were paid monthly, regardless of their rotation schedule, while 12 said they were paid for the months they worked.

Freelance Captains

Out of all the captains who responded, 58 (or 12.61 percent) were freelance when they took the survey. When we asked them to include their rates, some provided their data while others preferred not to.

According to our survey, hourly, daily, and monthly freelance rates were provided. Just one hourly rate was provided — $38 per hour. Day rates ranged from $350 to $1,680. One captain included a monthly rate of $14,560, while another specified $8,960 per month plus tax. Others included holiday day rates of $800; hourly charter rates of $75 to $100, or holiday charter rates of $100 to $150 per hour, plus gratuity.

The Female Perspective

Out of all 336 captain’s responses on vessels ranging from 10 to 150 meters, just three female respondents shared their salary figures. It shouldn’t be a surprise as female captains are a minority but are growing in number. Out of those who responded, none were freelance or on rotation.

The female captain who earns the most has been a captain for three years and has been in the industry for nine. She works on a 148-foot private motor yacht and takes home $14,000 each month.

The second female captain has held the position for 10 years and has been in the industry for 19. She works on a 17-meter private sailing yacht and takes home $3,360 each month.

The third female captain has held the position for 20 years and has been in the industry for 24. She works on a 24-meter private motor yacht and takes home $5,600 each month.

While people may look askance at talk of money and pay, it’s an important discussion to have when you’re looking to find a new job or to see how your compensation stacks up to the industry norm. In 2021, our data is surveyed from both crew and yacht agents for their salaries or their recent placement figures. In total, we had 1,060 respondents share their salary figures, plus figures from 10 crew agencies.

More from Dockwalk