What is a Yacht Captain Salary?
As yachts get bigger they tend to require more crew members who are more skilled at their jobs and that includes a good yacht captain. The pay range for a yacht captain can vary greatly and for less experienced captains on smaller vessels it may start around $45,000 while it can range up to as much as $300,000 or more for very skilled captains on larger luxury yachts.
Let’s take a look at what can affect a yacht captain’s salary and what you can expect to make (or pay) in this field.
Factors That Affect Yacht Captain’s Salary
Most people feel a yacht has to be at least 60 or so feet in length before it’s considered a yacht. The longest yacht in the world is the Azzam which is just shy of 600 feet long. You can imagine that the captain of the Azzam has to deal with more than the captain of a 60 foot yacht. As such, the Azzam’s captain is probably making more money.
Size of the vessel is arguably the biggest factor in what a yacht captain gets paid. You can divide yacht sizes up into three categories as it relates to yacht captains to get a better idea of the pay involved.
I’ve included some survey data here taken from Dockwalk and this was gleaned from information provided by 476 different yacht captains to give you a pretty good idea of how much a captain makes at every single yacht size.
A Junior Captain would be captain of the smaller yachts that rank in around 60 feet up to 100 feet. Many yachts of this size may only have one or two crew members on board to help operate them. The captain of a smaller yacht like this could expect to make perhaps $45,000 to $98,000 per year or more. Obviously this can change on a case by case basis depending on the specific duties expected of the given captain.
These smaller yachts have less involved operations and are, in general, easier to run which is why the captain of a yacht of this size would likely get paid less.
Survey data from 2021 shows that most captains working on yachts in this size range average just over $8,000 per month. On the low end of that scale were yacht captains pulling in about $3,100 a month while the highest paid make around $20,000 per month. Yacht captains can also pull in gratuities as part of the crew and that averages out to around another $1,300 per month.
In the middle is a Captain of vessels that range from 100 feet all the way to 170 feet which is superyacht territory. These vessels can include a crew of several different members and will require more organization and skill to maintain and run smoothly. At this size a Captain can expect to be making anywhere from about $80,000 per year up to $180,000.
Survey data from 2021 shows that, up to 140 feet, a superyacht captain can average about $10,100 per month. The lowest paid were making about $1,175 per month while the highest were again making around $20,000. You also pull in gratuities at this level that average just under $1,400 per month.
Yacht captains working vessels between 140 feet and about 190 feet were averaging $14,100 per month. At the low end of that scale you’re looking at $5,750 and it can go all the way up to $34,500 per month, so this is some serious money. If it’s a charter yacht, tips can reach nearly $3,000 a month as well.
A Senior Master is the captain of any yacht over 170 feet. This gets into megayacht territory at 200 feet and even gigayachts at 400+ feet. These captains have to be highly skill and managed not only massive crews that can include dozens of people, but a lot of more complex technology than the smaller vessels may be making use of.
Because of the demands of this job, it’s clear that pay grades increase substantially as well which is why captains at this level can make between $140,000 and $300,000 every year.
Survey data shows that between 180 feet and 240 feet, yacht captains had an average salary of just over $16,100 per month in 2021. That means a starting, low end salary of $9,200 per month which went all the way up to $23,250 per month. Tips closed in at just under $3,700 per month as well.
From 240 to 280 feet a yacht captain averaged just under $15,500 in 2021 which you’ll notice is oddly under the average for the next size down. The low end of the scale here paid just under $7,500 per month which is a good deal lower than the low end for slightly smaller vessels. On the high end captains were making $20,125. For whatever reason, yachts in this range just don’t pay as well as those in the 180 range, on average.
When you head to 280+ feet, the largest that the survey data was able to account for, yacht captains average about $20,500 per month. Remarkably, the low end here was $9,200 which is the same as vessels a full 100 feet shorter. However, on the high end some of these captains are making $32,000 per month. Factor in gratuities and that’s another $5,600 on average.
How Yacht Captains are Paid
Most yacht captains get paid on a monthly basis. There are freelance captains who may also work under different payment terms. One such captain who responded to the survey charged $38 per hour as a flat rate. If they were chartered for a week, that would work out to $6,384 per week assuming you expect your captain to be ready for duty 24/7 on the water.
What do the Yacht Crew Members Make?
Like the captain, crew members can make more money on larger vessels and their experience in the business and time at sea can also factor in. But in general, here are some average numbers for crew salaries to put things in perspective.
On a smaller yacht under 100 feet a first officer may earn up to about $65,000 per year. On a much larger yacht over 200 feet they could expect $100,000+
The bosun mate on a smaller yacht can start earning around $45,000+ per year. On a larger yacht over 200 feet this can be bumped up to well over $65,000 per year.
At the low end of the scale, on a smaller yacht a deckhand may make around $40,000 per year. However, on a much larger yacht they could potentially earn up to $65,000 per year.
A chief engineer on a small yacht may earn as much as $80,000 per year or more. On larger yachts that top 200 feet this can get closer to $150,000 per year thanks to the much more complicated machinery they need to deal with. They may also need to repair things like jet skis.
The assistant engineer is obviously not earning what the chief does but they can still start at $45,000 per year or so. On large yachts this can reach over $85,000.
The purser on a smaller yacht can make between $54,000 and $60,000. On the larger vessels this salary can increase to over $80,000.
A steward may make as much as $42,000 on some smaller yachts while that could increase to as much as $65,000 or more on larger vessels.
A trained chef can expect $60,000 on a small yacht and that can reach well over $105,000 on larger yachts. Many larger luxury yachts also bring in Michelin starred restaurant chefs to work for limited times and these chefs can earn quite a bit more.
On yachts up to 100 feet, a cook can look forward to making perhaps $54,000 to $60,000 per year. On the high end of the scale, a cook on a large yacht over 200 feet might make over $84,000 per year.
Motor Yacht Captains vs Sailing Yacht Captains
On smaller yachts, the salary difference between sailing yachts and motor yachts captains is often negligible or non-existent. As vessel size increases, the salary of a sailing yacht captain will tend to outpace that of a motor yacht captain, sometimes by a lot. Larger sailing yachts are often harder to come by and require more specialized knowledge so a captain able to handle a 200 foot sailing yacht is rather rare.
Jeff Bezos currently has the largest sailing yacht in the world at 416 feet while, as we said, the largest motor yacht is the Azzam at almost 600 feet. Though Bezos’ yacht has yet to hit the sea officially, we can assume her captain will be well compensated.
The Bottom Line
Because yacht captains may perform a wide range of duties for their clients, their pay range can vary widely as well. The yachting industry is nothing if not malleable about things like duties, yacht operations and salary ranges. As long as a captain is skilled and experienced they can expect to make a decent salary regardless of the size of the vessel, but it will definitely increase considerably as the yacht size increases. As such, yacht captain salaries can range anywhere from $3,100 per month to $32,000 per month.