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Safe at Sea: What is a port captain?

By Staff | Mar 3, 2020


At the marine professional level, a port captain assures that waterborne ships are fully prepared to embark on their voyages. Their range of maritime expertise and education – covering a broad variety of ships – is extensive. In short, a port captain affirms that the efficiency, legality and safety of the harbor is running smoothly. What an impressive career.

For local boaters, the America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva has its own “port captain.” In fact, every squadron of the organization – nationally and internationally – has one. These port captains stand ready to provide advice and assistance to its club members and non-members about “all things boating.”

These volunteers offer their “local knowledge” about traversing the surrounding waters, but particularly about the unmarked hazards to safe navigation. Additionally, a good port captain does so much more.

Bob Simpson, who is also affiliated with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, is the island club’s port captain. He recently mentioned the secret to being a “local knowledge” expert: He started by claiming that all boaters love to share when given the opportunity, so the port captain should zero in on things that are of most interest, even if it isn’t the purpose behind the contact with the port captain.

Because port captains engage with the wide range of boaters (those new to the area, those traveling through it) – typically boating the intercoastal waters – they are equipped with a volume of knowledge. Simpson listed just some of the assistance he has provided, including commercial towing companies, best marine repair locations, fuel (marina) supplies and on-the-water restaurants.

His list continued to include protected harbors in case of bad weather, overnight mooring locations, locations of the U.S. Coast Guard station – Matanzas Pass, locally – boat launches and best port for a medical emergency. Then, of course, he’s been asked about navigation hazards (think location of most vessel groundings and/or the Miserable Mile).

While club port captains are under no obligation to provide more than friendly advice, Simpson and others like him enjoy meeting people and strive to be of assistance to any and all contacts, if possible. To contact with Simpson, call 612-987-2125.

Pat Schmidt is a member of America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more about the chapter and the courses it offers, visit www.sancapboating.club or contact education@sanibelcaptivasps.org or 612-987-2125.