We compared expert and novice behaviour in a group of participants as they engaged in a simulated maritime driving task. We varied the difficulty of the driving task by controllling the severity of the sea state in which they were driving their craft. Increases in sea severity increased the size of the upcoming waves while also increasing the length of the waves. Expert participants drove their craft at a higher speed than novices and decreased their fixation durations as wave severity increased. Furthermore, the expert participants increased the horizontal spread of their fixation positions as wave severity increased to a greater degree than novices. Conversely, novice participants showed evidence of a greater vertical spread of fixations than experts. By connecting our findings with previous research investigating eye movement behaviour and road driving, we suggest that novice or inexperienced drivers show inflexibility in adaptation to changing driving conditions. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.