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Yacht captain: What I do and how much I make

Yacht captain Chris McGinley shares his exciting life at sea, earning $72,000 a year. His job involves sailing, researching destinations, maintaining the boat, and managing budgets. Despite the challenges of not having a personal schedule and being away from family, Chris loves experiencing different cultures and working with local communities.

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Video transcript

My name is Chris McGinley. I'm 30 years old. I work as a yacht captain, and I make $72,000 per year. So for this boat, I work for one family. And my job encompasses a lot of different things, but the main thing is to move it around to different places in the world where they wanna be and go sailing. I spent seven years in the Caribbean sailing through the Virgin Islands, St. Martin, St. Barts, all the way down to Grenada, through Cuba. I've also sailed extensively through the Bahamas. This past winter, we sailed from Martha's Vineyard, through the Panama Canal, up the west coast of Mexico, and arrived at California. That was a seven-month trip. Most people think my job is only sailing. That encompasses maybe 5% of it. The biggest part of the job is researching new locations, making sure it's a safe place for the boat, finding a safe place for the boat to be, and then also finding interesting, fun places to go with the owner and his guests. So when I'm maintaining the boat, I need to look at all aspects of it. So whether it's changing the oil, checking to make sure the engines and generator are running properly and efficiently. Looking towards the refrigeration system to make sure the coolant levels are proper, air conditioning units. All the rigging, making sure the rigging is all set properly. All the anchor gear, dinghy, make sure the varnish looks good, the boat is clean. Make sure the beds are made properly. Also, a big thing is provisioning. This is difficult in different parts of the world because you can't always get the food that you're used to, so you just have to make do with what you can. And whether you're getting it at local markets or big grocery stores or having special items flown in can be a challenge. So when I first got into the industry, I knew that usually captains make $1,000 per foot per year. So this boat's 64 feet, so on average you'd make $64,000 per year. So when I first started in the industry, I decided to ask for less than the industry average, because I was about 10 years younger than most people in my position. And then over three years, I asked for a raise every year. So now I'm at $72,000 per year, just over the industry average. And I'm kind of maxed out at that point. So in order to make more money in this industry, I would have to leave this job for a job on a bigger boat. And that's not something I wanna do. I really enjoy this boat. I like the owner and I don't wanna leave this job. The skills that are needed for this job. Of course, you have to know how to sail and how to maneuver a boat properly. But the really big skillsets are good decision-making, responsibility, project management because there's so many different aspects to the boat. Budgeting is a really big aspect to it. Because of all the different places we travel, you're always comparing the cost of marinas when you're at the shipyard. You're always trying to figure out who can do the work the best for the cheapest price. And when you're hiring crew, you can hire expensive people or less-expensive people, and you're just trying to bring it all together into a yearly budget. Trustworthiness is a huge factor. Someone is giving me their boat and credit cards and budget, and they don't have much oversight at all. They trust me to make all the right decisions, to get the boat there safely, to hire the right people and make proper decisions with their boat, with their big expensive asset. Additionally, you have to be able to make good decisions very quickly, for different reasons. The owner can often change his mind about where he wants to be or what he wants to do that day, and you have to have a plan B or plan C or just be able to come up with something on the fly. Also, things break constantly, and you have to be able to evolve with that. If you can't fix it, then you need to figure out a way around it. Additionally, if the weather changes, you need to be able to adapt to that as well. So you're constantly needing to make strong decisions that ensures everyone's safety, and very quickly. What I love about this job is being on a boat, sailing, traveling all over the place, getting to experience all different cultures, and being able to work in the new communities that I'm traveling with. I'm always hiring local people to help with the boat, so you get to know them on different level than just traveling somewhere as a tourist. The things that I, there's very few things that I don't like about this job, the biggest being not creating my own schedule, and not being able to take time off when I want to, and adhering to someone else's schedule. And that's the hardest thing. Another thing that's difficult about this job is being away from friends and family for an extended period of time. It's not my choice where I live. I'm sent somewhere, and often that's not where my friends and family live.