Day Boat Operations

Anyone heard of or had any day boat operations or tug jobs in general that allow you to get off the boat when work is slow?

If so is it normally a weekday job or do they still go with a week on/week off, 2/2, 3/3 etc work schedule. How much does the pay differ from a regular stay on the boat job?

Any experience/insight is welcome even if it doesn’t answer these questions

Where I work now, a day boat is simply a boat with a single crew (so 3 vs 5 crew members) limited to 12 hours. Everyone still stays on the boat and the 12-hour clock starts on the first call out.

G&H and SIU have an agreement in the most recent CBA that allows for true day boats, operating M-F, 0700-1700 (ish).The boats are crewed short, and crew members would have rotating weekend security/engine room watch duty. The promise is no callbacks after hours or on weekends, and the pay works out to be a little better than working the standard 183 days on 24-hour boats.

Don’t know if they have actually tried this out yet in any of their ports. Sounds like a great deal for folks who live nearby, though.

I’ll tell you how it works in some of the california ports for the ship assist companies.

In LA/LB, San Fran Bay:

Some companies are strictly liveaboard be it 7/7 or 14/14. If you get off the boat, you have to be able to return in a certain amount of time. Now if you live close to where the boat ties up, some companies are okay with you sneaking home. Some aren’t.

Some companies work shifts. There may be a handful of boats that have a set crew that switches out every 12 hours, and does this on some type of even time schedule. Then they have boats without a set crew that do overflow work. Strictly call outs. Usually you start out on call then after a few years you work yourself into a schedule once you gain senority.

Smaller ports like San Diego, Port Hueneme, Eureka, etc…strictly call out work. Gotta live local. Folks higher up the food chain may be guaranteed a certain amount of hours per week no matter the work load and may have some kind of vague schedule. For those without a guarantee, its feast or famine.

Even a day boat involves working outside of bankers hours. To me dayboat means getting to go home every day regardless of the hours. Generally speaking, at least on the left coast, you won’t be making the same money as if you were liveaboard…and it won’t be as consistent.

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I have worked on a few of them. Generally you are paid for every minute you are on the boat, although some cheaper companies may limit this to 12 hours of pay per 24.

look for tugs that push construction barges, they are generally day boats.

The last day boat I was on was actually a night boat. We would typically be in sometime in the evening. We sailed to get a scrap scow and deliver it to the port before 0700 when the longshoremen showed up. We would then tie up. We would usually rest but technically you could go home. Then at around 1600 we would take that same scow back to the customer, when that was done we went home.

When things were busy we were doing swaps and taking a load every day. When it was slow it was once or twice a week.

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I guess I was speaking more so of boats (ship assist) like Ctony said that let you go home/get off the boats and get a call when there is a job coming up. Essentially on call work while still getting paid by the day/hr.

We’re a day boat, ship assist. Head down to the boat whenever there’s a job. Paid hourly, 4 hrs minimum pay per call out. Time and a half late night and weekends. On weekdays without a job we do maintenance. Pay is lower than actually sailing but you get to see your kids every day.

Day boats can be found on all the coasts, generally in smaller ports, though there are some in bigger ports too. It’s totally based on the company and their operations. I know in the ship assist world, larger busy ports typically have strict live-aboard schedules because the boats are just always getting jobs, and the boats often run all night. When there are slow periods, it’s company to company and port to port whether you can sneak home or not. At smaller, less busy ports, many ship assist tugs are strictly callout. You generally only come down to the boat for jobs, or maintenance periods. Many folks have other side jobs they work.

Seek smaller, less busy ports to up your chances of finding dayboats to work on.


The problem with day boats is the work moves around or isn’t steady and unless you happen to get really lucky it’s usually to far to commute. Let’s say your running a pushboat on a dredging or construction project either the 06:00-18:00 shift or the 18:00-24:00 shift. You don’t know how long the job is it’s usually 7 days a week and you don’t know where the next job is but I can guarantee you if you were close enough to commute the next job will not be. Granted in my opinion it beats the hell out of working on a tug even if your stuck in a hotel room hundreds of miles away from home. Let’s say your less then a hours drive home and everything is perfect how much time are you going to have to do anything? You get 12 hours off knock off 2 hours of driving, a few hours to shower, eat, do laundry, ect. Now your going to have to sleep. You aren’t going to have much time with your family. I love dayboat/nightboat work because I have no family I stay in a nice hotel eat out at great places and can even have a couple drinks after work. If I had a family I’d be more inclined to work on a tug week on week off or two and two so I had some quality time off with them.

I was on a dayboat for a couple of years. We had a contract moving scrap scows from one of two creek terminals to Port Newark. We had to land the scow before 0700 when the longshoremen would come in. That meant being in the creek on the preceeding high tide, which meant sailing about two hours prior to that. Typically we get the scow light boat, take it to Newark and then go back to the dock and crash out.

The following day after waking up, we would eat, so some semblance of work and when the scow was unloaded usually around 1600 we would get it and return it.

It was normally twice a week, but when scrap was high we had a second scow and would make swap in the creek. We could not move the stuff fast enough.

It was eight hours minimum when we were called in. Typically we got 12 hour days. When we did go over our 12 hours the extra pay was nice. A couple times a year we would load a ship directly at Newark. We had to stay around the clock to make the shifts, there was usually a relief captain and the crew would work it out.

The pay was technically hourly according to union scale.

You could leave the boat when you were not doing a job or “work” of course one guy would go up the street and drink, other guys would shop for grub or otherwise kill time. Typically you did not stray too far, because of the toll and the possibility of a job coming in.