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Delivery Words: Norris Comer

Photos: Alex Kwanten

Many yacht owners will work with a delivery captain at some point in their boating lives. But who’s really at the helm, and how does the “delivery industry” work? We hopped aboard to find out. Captain Chris Couch awakens at dawn aboard Ink On Paper, an Ocean Alexander 58 motoryacht moored in Anacortes, Washington. Couch looks at the sky and turns to his tablet for a glance at the weather models. The straights look a little choppy, but if he leaves now, it’ll be smooth sailing down the coast with perfect timing to hit the Columbia River bar with a flood tide the next morning. He can then navigate up the Columbia River to Portland, Oregon, his destination, by dinner. Each well-thoughtout, safe decision is a link in the chain to a safe trip that’ll put the boat through minimal stress. Essentially, Couch thinks much like a responsible boat owner who is proud and protective of his baby. But Couch doesn’t own Ink On Paper, he is a hired delivery captain who has been contracted to transport the vessel as per her owner’s instructions. The delivery captain is an often overlooked and heavily-used member of the maritime industry, an inconspicuous professional whose best mark is no mark at all. But what kind of mariner turns to yacht deliveries for a living? It turns out delivery captain backgrounds are as varied as the seas are vast. “I don’t know if there’s a rhyme nor reason of where people come from,” says Couch. “I’ve done 26 years as a delivery captain. Before this, I did a career in the Coast Guard, so I’ve been a professional mariner for a little over 40 years. I run into very few ex-Coasties,” says Couch. We pull out of Anacortes and Couch focuses on the choppy straights and plays with the throttle to make

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for a smoother ride. It doesn’t do to bang up the client’s boat and Couch needs to focus. We transit into calmer, more open waters and start chatting again. Whale breath and mist shroud the waters around Neah Bay as we pass. Couch reflects on his first gig. “I was working for a guy who lived in Hawaii, and he shipped his 65-foot Sea Ray to the West Coast. He shipped it from Hawaii to Seattle and we used it for the summer. At the end of the summer, I took it down to Newport Beach where it went up for sale. So that was my first, and then I kept doing it. I worked for him for several years. His ultimate goal was to find a boat that could go from Hawaii to the Northwest, and my first Canal trip was from Fort Lauderdale to Hawaii with the boat he settled on.” Helping a friend is a common way to break into the industry, but are most deliveries referred through word of mouth? Not even close says Couch. The relationship between client and captain almost always begins with a yacht broker. “Everything comes to brokers, almost. The boat broker will have a client, typically who he sold the boat to, and will need his client’s boat moved. It’s the brokers I market to, 99% of my business starts with the broker. I work for everybody because any one broker many only have a client who needs a captain once a year. They have a list of captains they call.” The ideal triangular relationship between client, captain, and yacht broker benefits everybody. Boat owners get what they want, i.e., a boat from the broker and a vetted capContinued on Page 72

Northwest Yachting September 2016  

All the latest in West Coast Boating, featuring an Alaskan Shakedown cruise; an inside look at the lives of delivery captains; the story of...

Northwest Yachting September 2016  

All the latest in West Coast Boating, featuring an Alaskan Shakedown cruise; an inside look at the lives of delivery captains; the story of...