Saturday, July 20, 2019 | 2 a.m.
As far as desert jobs go, Bryan Sloan might have one of the most unusual possible. The Anthem resident works as a yacht captain and rescue boat operator on Lake Las Vegas. And when he’s not working, Sloan is zooming on his JetSki or the speed boat he rehabbed with his father. “I’m almost always on water—whether it’s Lake Las Vegas, Lake Mead or Lake Havasu.”
Before he captained La Contessa—a grand 80-foot-long and 20-foot-wide yacht that takes 130 guests on cruises of Lake Las Vegas—Sloan was the boat’s First Mate for four years. He says he knows the 2.5-mile-long lake like the back of his hand. After accruing enough experience and passing a very strenuous “captain school,” Sloan advanced to the role of captain. But what’s it like to be a yacht captain in the desert? We chatted with Sloan to get the goods.
La Contessa Yacht Cruise
• Cost: $1,250 for the first hour and $950 for each additional hour. Options available for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and/or sit-down dinner.
• For more information: 702-568-8965
How does being captain compare to first mate?
As the first mate, your job is to make sure all guests are as happy as they can possibly be. Same for being a captain, except now you have the responsibility of everyone’s lives. You have to make sure the boat goes out and comes back safely. It’s a hospitality job at the end of the day, though. So you’re also just making sure everyone is as happy as possible.
What is a typical job as a captain like?
Right before the guests get there, we make sure everything is perfect and the boat is buttoned up—that it looks pretty. As the guests arrive, you greet everyone and make sure they understand all the safety protocols of the boat: not to jump off, etc and make sure everyone’s having a great time. Typically, I’ll let anyone drive for a few moments if they want to, for a photo.
What’s your favorite part of boating?
Interacting with the guests and taking photos with them because they’re all extremely excited to be [there]. It’s not an everyday experience, especially being able to take a photo with the captain or drive the boat for a moment.
What are the challenges of piloting the Contessa?
Paddleboarders are attracted to the yacht like a magnet. They paddle to me, and I have to slow down and stop, wait for them to cross. Nobody realizes a yacht doesn’t have brakes, and you can’t put it in park on the lake.
What do you do as a rescue boat operator?
I utilize a 28-foot fireboat with water cannon. Both sides fold down so that I can pick up a lot of people all at once. Sometimes paddleboarders bite off more than they can chew. They’ll paddle with the wind for too long. When they turn around to try to paddle back, they’ll realize, “Oh, I made a big mistake.” That’s where I come in. Ninety-nine percent are non-emergency rescues—people are too tired. I take it seriously, making sure everyone is as safe as possible. At the end of the day, everyone needs to come home.
What are some fun things about yachts that people might not know?
Touching on safety once again, too many people think they are better swimmers than they actually are. I’ve come across situations where people aren’t wearing life vests when swimming in open water. All it takes is one cramp or incident, and you can drown. I want everyone to be safe and wear life vests.
Any funny stories or anecdotes from being a boat captain of what is sometimes called a “booze cruise?”
I’ve seen some interesting things, nothing crazy. Sometimes people drink too much at night and run into a sliding glass window, but our bartenders are good at cutting off people who drink too much. The funniest thing I get is whenever somebody asks if we are going to Hoover Dam. As politely as I can, I tell them that Lake Las Vegas is not connected to Lake Mead. It is a valid question—they’re not on the water; they don’t understand.