What was the old man thinking?

First time poster, so I apologize in advance for any errors. What are some of your strange captain stories? For instance I knew a Captain who decided it was a good idea to turn the fire hose on some small boats who were fishing nearby his vessel.

P.S. Please, no names or other identifying information. This thread is for humorous stories, not public shaming.

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No names for sure. The following captain always showed good decision making skills & is a really nice guy. We’ve been friends for 20 yrs now & know each others families. He brings this folley up every once in a while when we talk.

We were on an OSV in the GoM hanging on a bouy offshore in the the early 2000’s. He was giving a safety meeting on the back deck after an abandon ship drill. The meeting rolled into a MOB recovery discussion & out of the blue with no warning he leapt overboard & plunged into the GoM. WTF?! We were all stunned into silence & inaction. I guess he underestimated the current or didn’t take it into consideration? No one threw him a life ring because we were perplexed & knew he had on his PFD. Within seconds he had floated half way down the length of the boat & was headed to stern. He was desperately trying to swim to stay near the boat but being fully clothed & wearing a PFD it wasn’t happening. The only Iine I had handy was a short piece of heaving line which I threw at him after running down the deck to catch up. Luckily the line was loosely coiled, went in a straight line & he managed to catch the bitter end of it. He would of been in the drink for hours if he hadn’t because we didn’t have a rescue boat & the engines were off. He came back aboard with a lot of lessons learned to share with us starting with “Don’t ever, ever jump overboard.”


Sounds like some of the nincompoops I sailed with in my early years. They are treasures.

Same here. I have a lot of crazy captain stories but none that I recall that happened in the last 10+ years. Either I moved up to better things or grown so used to crazy I think it is normal?

BTW, that guy is top notch, I don’t know what possessed him to jump overboard & he doesn’t either. He’s a millionaire now who would give me all kinds of real estate advice when I was starting out. Crazy days…


Then there was the Royal Naval captain who threw his scrambled egg embellished cap on deck an announced it was a bomb. A quick thinking rating threw it overboard in an instant.


Lol, great story. His heart was in the right place trying to use a teaching moment, but he should have covered his bases better by having the Chief Mate (or someone else) ready.

Different Captain, but I know one who performed a similar “drill”. He went to the backup DP room and took control without notifying anyone of the drill (including the drill floor who were busy in operations). The DPO’s went to yellow then red before the old man notifying them of the drill, so the vessel came extremely close to an emergency disconnect purely because of the captain.


I had a relief captain, privately nicknamed, “Captain Can’t Be Right” call me to the bridge & told me to bring my multi meter with me. He said when standing in front of the ships wheel his belly would get a small electrical shock. To make it happen he had to have the VHF mic in one hand, his other hand on the overhead brass spotlight control & his Tshirt would need to rise up exposing the bare skin of his belly to the ships wheel. I did a quick check with the meter, everything was okay & told him to stop doing that or tuck his shirt in. He said that wasn’t a suitable solution & said he wanted it fixed. I then told him I would order a multi meter with 3 leads to better troubleshoot it & he was satisfied he got something accomplished.


The Admiral, for it was an Admiral, then shouted ‘Man overboard’ and instructed the rating jump in and retrieve the cap. I can’t remember the Admiral’s name but he was known as ‘The Terror of Tobermory’ and was responsible for training and ‘working up’ Royal Navy ships in WW2

Thanks for the correction, so it was a double helping of scrambled egg. I don’t know but Admiral Tovey rings a bell. I remember my father telling me a story of Admiral Tovey trying to enter a base without an ID card and in civilians. The admiral was vertically challenged and the naval rating on the gate was a friend of my father and a 6 foot 4 man mountain.
Admiral Tovey’s opening bid was “ do you know who I am?”
My fathers mate peered down at him and said “and I’m Mrs Niven’s little boy and your not coming in.”


Admiral Gilbert Stephenson.

From Wikipedia:

“A frequently recounted anecdote is that when inspecting a corvette and its crew, Stephenson suddenly threw his hat on the deck and called it an unexploded bomb. A trainee variously reported as a quartermaster or a sub-lieutenant immediately kicked it into the water. After Stephenson commended him for quick action, but wanting his heavily gold-braided hat back, he then suddenly said the hat was now a man overboard and the trainee had to dive in to retrieve it.”


I knew a Captain who worked on the banana reefers, they had a pet monkey on the vessel, and when they would get to port, they would open one of the portholes and the monkey would jump out onto the mooring line close to that porthole, and hang out there most of the day. Well, they forgot to close the porthole when they left the port and they assume the monkey, who was seen onboard, decided to jump out of the porthole in open ocean. RIP.

Young 32rd mate crossing the Atlantic an a Mission T-2. Capt came up to the bridge and told the QM and I to come out on the wing with him and then stay there. He then put an empty coffee can on the opposite wing and returned to us and then poroceeded to shoot through the wheelhouse with the ship’s pistol. I was shocked but have to admit he was a good shot!


Once sailed with a captain that was one the the most well respected in the fleet for his ability. At a certain port we discharged at, he had the bright idea to do a little “Private discharging” on his own. Loaded a drum or two of gasoline into the vessels skiff to take home. Got not too far when " Bad stability" occured. He wore a black cowboy hat. That was all I saw floating at first (Aside from the hat). Got the skiff back, not sure what happened to the floating drums. Never asked, I was new. I don’t believe he tried that again.


A navy captain of a survey ship, when reminded by reference to the Wardroom clock, that the bar would be closing soon, went and got the bridge shot gun (used for various entertainments when things were boring) and returned and blasted the clock off the bulkhead.

It was never replaced.

It was noticeable that the entire crew of a PSV drove diesel vehicles.

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Early in my Orange career I sailed with some real wackadoodles. One Captain I found out later on had been formally accused of throwing overboard in the middle of the ocean some stowaways, I believe Filipino. Mate said he did; he said he didn’t. Acquitted.

Wackadoodle or monster? To me a “wackadoodle” would be more on the eccentric side and would make for a good sea story. Having a reputation for alleged murder would be outside those lines…

I’ve got one that I’ve been saving up for the right occasion. I’m not sure it qualifies as humorous, because it was pretty shocking, but my shipmates and I had a chuckle or two about it after the fact. The “captain” in question was a property developer who bought a ship as a toy, and figured this entitled him to the position. He had all the psychotic tendencies needed to make it to billionaire as a penniless immigrant, and was the same guy who had the bright idea of going to Algeria to smuggle fuel with zero margnis. About a year later, he finally did run the ship out of fuel, and it went like this:

We were cruising up the West coast of Italy, having a great time as our supply of cheap African fuel was dwindling down to nothing. I kept The Man in the loop during my daily reports, but he was reluctant to do something about it, grumbling about how the local price was too high and we had to “find a solution”. We were in the Southern anchorage on Capri when I pumped the last dregs into the settling tank and reported this to upstairs. He conceded that it might be time to take a bit on board, just a couple of tons to get us down the coast a ways. Well, the fuel guy on Capri lived up to his reputation, made a big show of how difficult this was going to be, and offered us a time slot late in the afternoon.

The Man would have nothing of this, and decided to fuel up in the next fishing village down the coast. That was cutting it a bit close, but there was no arguing, so I went along. On arrival there, The Man was into his second bottle of Campari for the day, and in a fine mood. It was a very tight spot, the wind was up, and we made such a spectacular show of fucking up the mooring as to draw the attention of the whole village. After going at it for fifteen minutes, his head out of the bridge window roaring “YOU’RE ALL GAYS! GAYS AND LESBIANS!!!”, and pulling a bollard out of the dock (a nice and big one that came out with a bunch of rebar), he gave up and put back to sea, reasoning that we’d continue through the night and fuel up next morning in whichever port.

I didn’t quite know what to do, so I went up on the bridge and put down a waypoint on the ECDIS where I calculated we’d run out of fuel, and labeled it “Estimated Loss of Propulsion”. The Man’s response was to decide that I was probably not reliable, so he sent the cook down into the ER to make sure I was doing my work properly. The cook sheepishly explained his mission, so I started the transfer pump, went through all the valves on the fuel transfer manifold and pointed out the vacuum gauge dancing around, explaining that this was because the pump was drawing air. Then I topped up the emergency generator day tank and went to bed.

As it turned out, we ran out a bit earlier than I had projected, because the guy who graduated the settling tank sighting tube apparently hadn’t accounted for the sloping bottom. This led to the strangest moment of my career: Waking up from the main skipping a beat, and instead of a panicked sprint to the ER (you’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve been there), I yawned and sat on my bunk, leisurely getting into my clothes while she skipped another beat, then gradually shut down. Oh well, it was that time.

The Man was genuinely shocked, as it had somehow not entered his head until then that we might actually run dry. Always quick to think on his feet, he decided that calling for a tug would be too expensive (and perhaps a bit embarassing), so he ordered us to scrounge up all the 5 gal drums we could find and put the skiff on the water. The wind had died down, but the swell obscured the horizon as seen from the main deck when we were in the troughs, putting it somewhere north of 3 meters. If you’ve seen the Amalfi coast, you’ll understand my trepidation at the thought of making a landing in the dark with a heavy swell running.

The Mate and I set out for the coast a few miles distant, guided by the lights of a clifftop village. It would have been outright suicide if I hadn’t been familiar with that stretch of coast, but I knew the place quite well and aimed for a small beach “protected” by a line of rocks, directly below the village. As we made the final approach, nestling the skiff on a crest, fully committed, the Mate commented how happy he was that I knew what I was doing. I considered mentioning that my knowledge of surf landings was mostly theoretical, but decided to keep it to myself.

We almost made it, but as the swell started breaking the propeller drew air, and we slipped back into the trough. The outboard found a rock, and we got flipped in the surf. I will never know quite how we avoided getting ground to a paste on the rocks, or how we managed to gather most of the empty drums and miscellaneous detritus floating around in the dark. We didn’t say much, just bent our necks and used our boiling fury to fuel us for the task at hand. After walking several rounds up the steps to the gas station, lugging 60-ish gallons of fuel back down, and getting the water logged outboard running again, we were well and truly spent. We waded the skiff out a ways, did our best to time our takeoff for a small set, and made for the murky line of foam ahead in the darkness.

We just barely got across the breakers. There was a gut wrenching moment when the brave little skiff stood with the nose in the air, water coming over the transom, threatening to flip us backwards and spill everything into the sea. Then the bow came down and we were off. Ahead of us was only inky blackness where I expected to see our red over red. Perplexed but beyond caring about why, I took approximate aim at where I figured the ship must be and used the lights on land behind us to keep a stable heading. Then, ten minutes out, the lights on the ship flickered back on and guided us home.

When we arrived, it turned out that The Man had shut down the emergency generator because the noise annoyed him. The deckhand had finally armed herself with a big diving knife, turned it back on and stood guard at the door, God bless her brave heart for that.

This episode marked the beginning of the end of my time on board. It also marked the time when The Man started locking his cabin door at night. And to those of you who say that working the piratical side of yacthing sounds like fun, I say welcome to the deep end of the spectrum.


Over the years I have composed a bit of a memour about some of my time at sea, and I attach something about the madest captain I sailed with on a trip in 1967 when I was Second Mate. I was to stop him putting the ship aground a couple of times later in the voyage.

“The captain had, one might say, already shown his true colours when he expressed a lack of trust in the autopilot, and so the wheel was manned at all times, and out of sight of land he insisted on taking a sight at noon with the Third Mate and I. He never indicated whether this was due to lack of trust in me or just because he was fond of the task but we did not like it, if for no other reason than it took him a lot longer to work it out that it took us, which usually made us late for lunch. But as we made our way down the Red Sea I saw that at noon on one day the sun would be virtually overhead, which gave us the opportunity of using “Captain Anderson’s Method”. The technique required us to take three altitudes at predetermined times about five minutes apart, and since the sun was passing directly overhead, three position lines would be achieved, providing a precise location for the ship. The Third Mate and I had done all the work for the sights, so all we had to do was take the three altitudes at the appropriate intervals. The captain arrived on the bridge and while we were doing our thing he took a conventional noon sight. As a consequence we produced a result in moments and had to wait for fifteen minutes while he did his calculations. When he found out what I had programmed he walked away and never joined us at noon again.
His involvement in the navigation of the ship did not however come to an end at that moment. I had drawn all the lines on the chart to take us from Rotterdam to China skirting the southernmost point of Sri Lanka and then going onwards towards the Malacca Strait. Once we were in the open waters of the Indian Ocean it appeared that the captain had an aversion to following the lines I had drawn, and once the noon position had been pencilled on the chart he would alter course in what seemed to me to be a random direction, but maybe it seemed like that to him as well, because later in the day he would probably appear on the bridge again and make another alteration, and later another, so that when it came to the time for my morning sight I had a dog leg of courses and dead reckoning positions to deal with. But I would manage to put a cross on the chart at noon, and then he would start again from that point. We also found that while he seemed to have not trust in my navigation he would respond to external inputs, and so if I wanted us to set a course to starboard of what was currently being followed, the Third Mate and I would tell him we had seen ships on the starboard horizon, and off he would go. And we never to got to see Sri Lanka at all, we left it about 50 miles to port.”

While doing a fire drill inside the ship, the captain decided it wasn’t realistic without charging the hoses. We were in full turn out suits. The hoses were charged, then the nozzle man accidentally bumped the bail, and the old man was soaked.