Your first real paying job on a boat... (or ship)

It might be fun to recall where we started and how much we were paid back then…

1983 - Crewboats Inc. - Challmette, La (not around anymore - Katrina and closure of the MRGO, i suppose)

I had a 50 ton NC and started as a deckhand 110’ Breaux Craft - $35/day -7/7
after two hitches, I was bumped up to Captain - 45’ crewboats - $70/day 7/7, sometimes longer if on a short term job.

For a short time, I operated the MRGO Pilot Boat…


uncertified deckhand on the tug SUSAN H in the summer of 1978 towing lografts in Puget Sound mainly from Quilcene on Hood Canal to the Seaboard Lumber Mill on the Duwamish River in Seattle. $45 bucks a day if memory serves me.

What’s amazing is how many times recently I could have bought her…she’s been for sale several times over the past couple years and now moors very close to the ORCA in LaConner. Going past her when headed out to the fisheries charters always would bring back a fond memory of living in a tiny fo’c’sle where the deckhead dripped water onto you in your bunk and a shitter where you flushed it with a bucket of seawater. My dad was her master and he got me the job but no breaks from him…he ran my ass ragged cleaning and painting all day and standing at the wheel at night (no autopilot but with so much drag behind you there wasn’t all that much steering to do, When you’d drop the raft at the mill, you’d run light back to the company dock and you’d swear you were in a jet fighter flying at a breakneck 7kts! I remember vividly how slow towing rafts of logs are…going backwards half the time when bucking a strong tide. 2kts when the tide was fair!


1994 started as a ‘pinhead’ on charter sportfishing boats. Got a cut of the tip money if I was lucky. Year or so later got a daily rate of $40 a day plus tips.

When I got my 100 ton and took a second captain spot in 1999, was making $80 a day plus tips. About a year after that got my first workboat job running small crewboats doing launch runs to ships and stuff $15 per hour.

1981…I was 12 years old,making a share on a 50 ft wooden shrimp boat “sea breeze”. My uncle was capt. And gave me the full share because i had been on my dad’s boat working since i was eight. I did the same job as the other deckhand except cook and ice up. Because i couldnt raise a full basket to do it. I held my wheelwatch and sometimes made the best drags. My mom would “hold” my money and sometimes made me buy my own school clothes. Bought all my own bicycles,three wheelers,dirt bikes,etc. Usually made 3 to 4 grand a summer.

I remember making $29 and change for an 8 hour day as OS with MSC

Commercial fishing, purse seining Spanish sardines on Gulf coast of Florida. Saw the guys on the work boats making more $$ and steadier paychecks. Made the jump across the pier to work boats and never looked back.
Still subscribe to National Fisherman, thinking… man that’s hard work …and sucks.

AB for Tidewater on the Gulf Fleet 56. IIRC it was $95 a day no OT. That was back in 93.

1991 wiper on the SS Independence for American Hawaiian Cruises $40 a day.

[QUOTE=Fraqrat;145815]1991 wiper on the SS Independence for American Hawaiian Cruises $40 a day.[/QUOTE]

but braddah, also all the pakalolo you could smoke…!

I’ve heard about the crew’s quarters on those two ships…needed a truckload of Febreeze each voyage to keep them at sea.

Howlie bruddah you gots no idea brah…

Howlie? LOL. It’s all good Fraq. I got lots of Haole Bruddahs!

Bilge rat on a suction dredge, $60 per day. Removed sand and silt from the bilge one bucket at a time. I still have the scars from the hot oil falling down on me. 1993

Deckhand on the Molokai Princess. I was paid in mai tais.

Delivery captain on a Swan 40 from the Palmer Johnson yard to western Lake Superior. 1974. No idea what the pay was.

1993 O/S for Trico Marine out of Houma,La that passed the stupid test. $50 a day.

  1. Undocumented deckhand on the old (built in 1889 I believe) tug Pinners Point in Baltimore harbor. I was fifteen.
    Went to work on the excursion/dinner boat Port Welcome the following year and that was how I got my original Z-card. Working on the Port Welcome was not very glamorous but, I learned basic seamanship skills under the tutelage of a former US Lines bos’n and quartermaster Ed Wilmer. Ed was a quartermaster aboard the Big U in the fifties and up until they tied her up in 1969.
    I STILL have the big, heavy wool greatcoat Ed wore aboard the United States while he was on watch and at the wheel of the great ship.
    Looking back some thirty years ago, I remember being fairly unimpressed with sweeping up garbage and cleaning up puke after the late night booze cruises but, I’d give just about anything to go back to those relatively care free days and do a few things differently.

Sea kayak guide “assistant” at the tender age of 11 or 12. I had and continued to be the boatyard rat at my fathers yard at the time too. Some
Boat deliveries with him between Maine and the south shore.

First real commercial job was in 07 aboard the tug Jaguar in fairhaven ma. $13/hour as an OS. Still try to pick up a job here or there and keep learning from the master and owner whenever I am home.

OS on the Great Lakes bulker Enders M. Voorhees in 1979. I was sent there as a SUNY Maritime cadet, but since they needed an OS and I didn’t need the sea time at SUNY, I talked them into letting me on as OS. The $12/hour was better than $11/day as a cadet.

First job out of the academy was extra extra 3rd Mate on the SS Mobiloil in 1980. At the time, most tankers had 2 third mates, Mobil recognized a new 3rd Mate is almost useless, and had me sail as a third 3rd for a month (essentially a super-cadet) until I had to start standing my own watches. Pay was about $60K/year (not much lower than today) and vacation was day for day (about twice of today).

Let’s see, 1979 I was a Senior in High School and was not the best student when I get a phone call from my Father to pack a Bag and stay in my room. A Tug Mate and A/E had got in a fight and got fired. The tug had to sail that night for Wilmington N.C. that night and the Union did not have A/E’s. So, I spent the next two weeks on the Tug. If I remember correctly I made right around $150.00 a day. That job took care of any chance of me going to college once I got the taste of making some real money. Next job was for the Dragon Lady in N.Y. Harbor. Great money but you earned it. The rest is History as the say.

Summer of 1972, 15 yrs old, deckhand on Charter boats for Brazosport Party Boats Freeport TX. $ 22 per day + tips . Snapper trips left dock @ 0300, Kingfish 0600. Snapper trips made for some long days.