CUSTOMIZED TRAWLER TRAINING WITH A SMILE
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRISTINE ALHAMBRA
f you’re not having fun, why do it?” Alyse Caldwell asked me as she described the wide array of marine
services that she and her husband, Chris, offer. It’s a motto that they both live by, and it shows.
I was first introduced to the Caldwells, owners of Captain Chris Yacht Services, at our Ft. Lauderdale
Trawler Fest in early 2010. They were new to our lineup of Trawler Fest University instructors; John
Wooldridge, PMM’s editor-in-chief, had recommended them after he met the USCG 100-ton master’s-licensed Caldwells during a yacht delivery they were conducting from Ft. Myers to St. Petersburg, Florida.
As I observed the couple present their two-day TFU course, “Building Cruising Confidence as a
Couple,” from the start I noticed that they were upbeat, professional, and self-sufficient. As I watched on,
I was impressed by their teaching skills—they seemed to have a system in place that worked well. They
separated the students into two groups, and then had each student take turns in the roles of captain and
crew. The guidance they provided to their students and the thoroughness with which they covered their
course material stood out. Throughout the Trawler Fest weekend, I saw the couple interact with students,
Trawler Fest staff, and other exhibitors and attendees, and I wondered how they could be that happy all
So when I had the opportunity to visit the Caldwells on their home turf of Ft. Pierce, Florida, I jumped at
the chance. I wanted to learn more about how their private, hands-on “Trawler Training” business worked,
but I have to admit, I secretly wanted to know something else: How did this married couple live, work,
and own a business together and not manage to kill each other? And really, could they always be this
The main focus of Captain Chris Yacht Services is to train couples or individuals either aboard the
Caldwells’ boat (Sandy Hook, a Gulfstar 44) or aboard the students’ boat, wherever it may be located. In
addition to trawler training, their services also include yacht delivery, absentee-owner responsibilities, and
light maintenance. Let’s just say, it’s a rare occasion when this couple has a full day off.
My visit to Ft. Pierce took place in late June, and for a few days I would be calling the V-berth of Sandy
Hook my home while shadowing a couple’s trawler training course.
The students, Claudia and Kenny Higginbotham, were delayed due to a late flight and would not be
arriving in time for dinner, but they were expected
later that evening. The bad news was that the
training would get off to a late start, but the good
news was that this allowed me some one-on-one
time with Chris and Alyse to ask them the many
questions I had.
How did you meet? How did Captain Chris
Yacht Services come about? Is it strange for you to
constantly have strangers aboard your boat?
After I bombarded them with questions, they
gave me the full story of how it all began. Chris used
to run charters on his family’s scuba diving boat in
the Gulf of Mexico and had his captain’s license
by age 18. Alyse spent most summers aboard her
family’s 31-foot cabin cruiser on the Jersey Shore.
Alyse met Chris in a scuba diving shop in New
Orleans, and a few years later they fell in love and