What is a paper captain?

I haven’t heard them called “Paper Captain” but I have heard them called “Capt’ Cubicle,” as in “Get a load of what Capt’ Cubicle wants us to do now”

Captain Cubicle is a paper captain.

(That’s an example of how the two are used differently from each other.)

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Just another day at a Florida dive. . . .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrrmNpGYH28

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In all seriousness, the marine survey industry is rampant with “captains”. As an engineer, I find it humorous. . .

It reminds me of that Spies like Us scene “Doctor, Doctor, Doctor”

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This can be a laugh when someone who did something like serve drinks and sweep the deck on the local tour boat gets their “sea time” and shows up on a boat insisting on being called Captain X when everyone else aboard has thousands or tens of thousands miles offshore.
OTOH you have a passenger fall off your 10 foot dinghy and die, you’ll find out in court you were the captain and you are on the hook.

Forgot to add - Doing ICW deliveries, you get called captain by everyone if they even suspect you might be in charge of anything. Sometime in a good way, like “Hey captain want some diesel” and sometimes in a bad way like “Good job docking captain” after you just made a 15 foot long divot in the brand new boat you are delivering LOL

I’ve been enjoying this thread. To my mind if you’ve signed ona ship’s register as master then, if you want, you can call yourself captain. And as so rightly been said, if things go wrong you find out who the captain is. Over the years I have written a lot about many of the topics we discuss here but I don’t post links much. But here’s one which pretty well sums up the discussion, on my old website written in 2015. Can’t seem to get the link right! A swing rope accident


“captains” who suddenly became captains by virtue of owning a boat for 20 years and only after retiring from another job having nothing to do with the water … sheesh

I worked with a jack up off Vung Tau in the early 80’s. Each morning we also took the workers from a FIPSO to an unmanned platform. We had a platform welded to the Port Quarter where the bosun stood with a boat hook. Only the crane driver and dog man used the swing rope. The rest of the workers went up by Billy Peu. It used to get a little hairy with the constant 3 - 5 metre swell. Sometimes we couldn’t get the two men off and we got a takeout from the FIPSO and the two of them spent the night in a small hut on the platform.

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The term “paper captain” to me means the person who is listed on the ship’s documents as in command of the vessel when in fact the “real” captain is another crew member.

This was sometimes done in the fishing fleet where a U.S. vessel required that the person in command be a U.S. citizen. A U.S. citizen would be hired as a paper captain while the fishing master was a foreign national would actually run the vessel.



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I was under the impression that it was still going on.

I’d assume it’s still going on but don’t know, don’t work with anyone in that sector anymore.

wrt master vs captain, I think the CFRs get around that by using the term “in command”.

The term “master” is a name of a position that requires a license as master. It’s not a title.

The term “captain” can be used both as the name of a position and/or can be used as a title.

As far as boat operators or shore-side using the term captain, I don’t really have an issue with that. In a way you kind of have to admire them for working with what they’ve got.

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The chest pounding “mine is bigger” mentality when it comes to licenses shows a lack of maturity.
People get the license they need to do what they want. There’s no shame in operating fishing charters with a 6-pack license if that’s the business they’re in. If they want to be called captain as a tool to promote their business, who cares.
It’s also pointless to fret over WAFIs and pontoon boat wantabes co-opting the title so their friends know who’s in charge of the boat.


I agree that there is no use fretting about wafi’s and rec boat operators co-opting the title. But I AM damn jealous of those scrambled egg cap’n hats they pick up from the marina shop and get to wear.


Except I don’t know how it doesn’t undermine the hard work you’ve done to become an -actual- master, when allowing everyone to be called a “captain”- for example everyone who’s got one of those 100 ton cocaine snorting/pill popping joke licenses and faked sea time.
It’s bullshit. They shouldn’t even be issued an MMC.
It’s not about chest pounding. It’s about not devaluing or tarnishing your own hard work and not destroying traditions.
Which “true blue” Americans don’t care about seems like, for the most part.

I don’t feel that an uninformed stranger’s lack of knowledge undermines my hard work. Any landlubber dumb enough to confuse the qualifications of a guy running a small day trip dolphin watching tour boat with those of a mariner operating a sea going ship probably believes in the tooth fairy.
Your assertion that “everyone” with a 100 ton license is a snorting/pill popping joker who got his license using fake sea time doesn’t add to your own credibility.

What do you suggest? Prohibiting 100 ton licenses?

Yes, that’s the case here in soCal. Yes, almost every single one I personally knew. Oh, they’re also fake piss carrying jokers.

Most people I’ve met would have no clue as to the difference.

How about more stringent checks of proof of sea service to start with.

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