Delivery captain: keeping tight schedules
By Douglas A. Campbell / Senior Writer
Delivery captain Bob Pierce, after more than 25 years on the job, still says “I love being paid to be out on the water.” But he admits that things have changed over the decades. “Used to be you could work a delivery for a beer and a handshake,” says the Arnold, Md., resident. “Now I have a six-page contract.”
Salary range: $250 to $500 per day
A recreational sailor and ocean racer, Pierce, now 64, worked in computers but had delivered boats back to Annapolis, Md., after racing them to Bermuda. He says he decided in 1982 that, because there are 10,000 sailboats in Annapolis, he could find work on the water near home.
Today, deliveries are but part of Pierce’s business, which includes managing boats and keeping them “turnkey” for their owners. He could live on deliveries alone, he says, but the business is “location and weather dependent, and one would have little or no social or home life.” For smaller boats — power to 45 feet and sail to 40 feet — Pierce charges $300 to $350 a day plus expenses, which include food, fuel, crew and transportation to and from the boat. For power- and sailboats bigger than 45 and 40 feet, respectively, he charges up to $500 a day.
Pierce has a 100-ton Coast Guard master’s license and a thick resume that justify his fees. The license is not legally mandatory, he says, but boat insurers require it on deliveries. He says the life of a delivery captain may sound romantic, but in a seminar he gives to prospective captains each year — “mostly retirees who think they’ll do it,” he says — “I shoot that whole myth down. It [making deliveries] carries an enormous amount of responsibility.”
There is no formal training for delivery captains. Pierce suggests getting a license and then finding a job on a water taxi to log a lot of hours on the water. He and other experienced delivery captains suggest crewing on deliveries, a type of apprenticeship that teaches the quirks of the business.
“The big thing is scheduling,” says Pierce. “We [he and the boat owner] talk about it, get a timetable. I send them a contract. If they agree, then I have them contact the insurance company to name me the insured. We take a weather window, and we go.
I charge extra if the owner or owner’s friends go along,” Pierce adds. “I really don’t like delivering with owners.”
Pierce’s contract provides for expenses — rental cars, tolls — traveling to and from the boat. And that travel time is “billable time, as well,” he says.
To find work, you have to ask around, says Pierce. Yacht clubs can be a good source of leads. Over the years, he says, he has developed a network of brokers who direct their customers to him. He now has the luxury to be picky.
When Pierce takes a job, he says, “I do all the conditional work upfront. They advance a credit card or cash [to cover] problems” on the delivery. As a result, he says, he “rarely” encounters problems with boat owners.