Appointed to the command of his ship only a fortnight before the story begins, the Captain is a young and inexperienced, sincere yet uninspiring commander who eventually learns to call upon his previously hidden reserves of strength and cunning. In the beginning of the story, his authority is undermined slightly by his sneering second mate. He offers to take the anchor-watch himself to learn about the ship and feel less alienated. Early in the story, he states, "My position was that of the only stranger on board," and, more significantly, "I was somewhat of a stranger to myself." His feeling out-of-place on the ship mirrors his feelings of inadequacy concerning his new command.
After he meets Leggatt, however, the Caption begins behaving in ways that surprise both himself and his crew. He becomes more daring (constantly maneuvering Leggatt to prevent his discovery), more cunning (lying to the Sephora's Skipper about being hard-of-hearing), and more courageous (steering the ship close enough to Koh-ring so that Leggatt can swim to safety). He begins commanding his men in a direct and unapologetic way, and eventually wins their respect by keeping his composure during the episode at Koh-ring. This change in the Captain is what drives the story forward until its end, when he feels "the perfect communion of a seaman with his first command."