This has the potential to get long, nasty and complicated.
Here goes. This is from the USCG on 6 pak vessels.
"The law is very specific on this subject. Without getting in too deep, here are a few pertinent parts: ―Uninspected passenger vessel‖ means an uninspected vessel of less than 100 gross tons carrying not more than 6 passengers, including at least one passenger for hire. It further defines ―passenger‖ as ―an individual carried on the vessel except; the owner, the master, or a member of the crew engaged in the business of the vessel who has not contributed consideration for carriage and who is paid for on board services.‖ It also defines ―passenger for hire‖ as ―a passenger for whom consideration is contributed as a condition of carriage on the vessel, whether directly or indirectly flowing to the owner, charterer, operator, agent, or any other person having an interest in the vessel. So, what is ―consideration‖? Consideration means an economic benefit, inducement, right, or profit including pecuniary payment accruing to an individual, person, or entity.
Bottom line: If anyone is paying, you are now carrying passengers for hire and can only carry 6 persons on the boat. (Not counting the crew — normally a Master and one deckhand.)"
I forgot the actual legal word, it is 'Consideration' This has been determined to mean, bringing food, contributing to fuel, maintaining the vessel, paying dockage, or transient fees, and most other costs associated with operating a vessel.
My adding this to this post was to point out, when traveling on a vessel someone cannot just assume that because they have a license they are 'in charge' and if someone wants to make it particularly obvious (legally) all one has to do is to assume the 'passenger role' by providing 'consideration.'
When someone comes aboard a ferry they have paid consideration (the ticket price) thus are a passenger. When someone comes aboard your private yacht and they pay consideration they become a paying passenger! If you have guests aboard and they contribute NOTHING they are simply guests. it is a HUGE change in liability, 'Captains') ((Licensed or not)) responsibility, and legal status.
If a 'Captain' asked you aboard, and bought all the meals, and the plan was to go on an extended trip (which would demand your participation in the operation of the vessel during the trip you have become an employee of the vessel. Now the relationship has changed.
If you were going on the previous mentioned trip, but showed up with ALL your anticipated meals and supplies, then you remain a guest. Until you are required to participate in the operation of the vessel.
This has totally changed the way I go boating. I NEVER let my passengers (oops, Guests) chip in for fuel, don't let them pay for dockage, and if they bring food, I always comment in front of everyone that while I thank them for the food (snacks, meals, etc) it was totally unnecessary, but the whole bunch of us would certainly appreciate it.