5 Must Learn Skills To Earn Extra Income On Board

by | Last updated Nov 24, 2023 | Salary, Seaman's Life | 0 comments

While other people or inspiring cadets busy themselves playing video games, you might as well think and learn things differently especially if you’re keen on earning extra income on board.

There are skills that you should learn to develop because you can use them to be a source of fun. Not only that, you can apply them to your work and be the instigator of joy to the crew as well.

But the best thing you can gain with it is to convert it into a money-making ability. Earning extra income on board while having fun can be extra fun.

Often, these skills are not taught in schools, training centers, or in your company since everyone is busy with the safety aspects of seafaring. You don’t need certificates, documents, or permissions from anyone to use it as this can be done by everyone who wishes to study it.

You are lucky enough if you have learned all of these skills in your younger days. Because of its simplicity, most people tend to ignore it while in fact, it is a source of extra income paid in cash outside of our monthly salary.

Here are the five skills in random order of importance:

1. Guitar Power

Not all vessels own instrument sets like drums, bass, beat boxes, pianos, or organs but most have a guitar on board.

In nearly all of the vessels that I’ve been with, the guitar is one of the most popular instruments. If you are well acquainted with this and know a lot of songs, you can instigate an atmosphere of fun and joy.

After dinner time, most of the crew usually gather in the Day Room. There, they can witness your mighty fingers hammer through the strings and sing songs with you while bumping glasses.

An off duty seafarer playing guitar outside the ship with a view of the port terminal behind him.
If you are skilled with guitar, you can pair it with a singer and play it in the cities ashore as another way to earn extra income aside from the regular pay.

Once, I heard a story of a crew who, when they arrived in Amsterdam, brought the guitar with them into the city and started playing in the crowds.

People began flocking around him and throwing coins in his hat which was lying on the floor.

Not too bad for earning a few extra incomes. Of course, this game plan won’t work effectively without the second skill which is…

2. Singing

While the guitar gives the melody of the song, a wonderful voice tuning in parallel with the instrument serves as the hook to catch passersby.

A humorous personality is also a leverage while delivering the music. It increases your crowd impact. We know it does take a lot of courage to do this but never mind the embarrassment, you are in a foreign land and they don’t know anyway. You might even get plenty of likes on social media.

Besides, one of the recreations that seafarers enjoy is singing especially with Filipino crews.

All vessels I’ve sailed with are equipped with a videoke system. Now you can place a microphone in your hands after using chipping tools the whole working day.

During Christmas on board or other occasions, some vessels organize a singing contest. And mind you guys, many Captains give prices for the best singer on board. If you are looking for an extra income opportunity, this is it.

Just be careful in showing your golden voice as news of your stardom could easily reach the whole fleet!

A ship's crew singing while sitting down near the bulkheads with mooring ropes in front of him.
The most versatile of all skills is singing. If you are brave enough, sing in the streets of Amsterdam to get extra income for beers.

3. Haircutting

This is a must on every ship!

I find this skill one of the most versatile and profitable as it can also be used ashore.

There are only about 20 people on board. Each of them would most probably like to have a haircut once a month. This is an income opportunity, especially for cadets.

In my experience, whenever I do my own haircut on board, people always ask me who did it.

Then they try to give the fate of their heads into my hands. But before agreeing with their offer, I tell them not to expect too much, hair included.

Too bad I don’t have a skill for this. But to those guys who know haircutting, I often hear them earn ten to twenty dollars per head especially if the Big Four (Capt., CE, CM, and 2E) are their customers.

Other crews offer similar amounts as well and still, some go the extra mile by giving food stuff like chocolates, soft drinks, beer, a treat during shore leave, and many others.

What if they don’t pay me squarely or not pay me at all?

You might ask this question.

Well, you should still do it even for free. As long as it won’t disrupt your rest hours, that’s okay. You can talk about a lot of things while trimming their hair. And maybe, they will share with you some work diskarte, business stuff, or something.

Moreover, there are good crewmates out there who will tell those stingy guys that they should pay you.

One time, I heard one of my crewmates make this remark to the other guy who always enjoys free service. The next day, my barber friend received an unexpected treat from him.

So if you have 25 persons on board and you’re the only one who knows this stuff, prepare to get busy with probable extra income every month.

And yes, it is also TAX-FREE!

The bald head of a seafarer sitting down.
If you know how to make a haircut, you can make money out of this on board even without telling them to pay you.

4. Tech Knowledge

The gadget industry is booming now more than ever. Seafarers, even though mostly at sea, are joining the craze in acquiring the latest and hottest devices the world can offer.

Almost every crew on board has a laptop, smartphone, or both as a means of communication and recreation.

With constant use, these gadgets could malfunction. Worse, the nearest service center could be half the world away. Not to mention the limited time we have on shore.

The solution? You!

The younger generation of seafarers mostly knows how to tweak and fix hardware or software problems. Common problems I faced with gadgets and laptops on board were software dilemmas. Examples are corrupted files, file extension errors, and virus or malware attacks.

But if you know more about these things, you can provide better services to your crewmates.

A seaman using his laptop doing some editing things.
Fixing laptops on software or hardware is one of the best extra income opportunities on board.

My roommate and I were fixing a laptop that was devastated by malware. After a few days, we were able to repair it and restore it to its optimum function.

We were expecting the usual “thank you” but to our surprise, he gave us €20.00. It meant a lot for us considering we were earning the least on board.

There were also instances that I did a similar service to others and received either slopchests, chocolates, a free internet sim card, or a treat during shore leave.

Here is a safe tip, make sure of yourself that you are a Tech Wizard and not a Tech Hazard.

5. Photography

And the winner is (drum roll please)…

This might be the grandest hobby we seafarers can have concerning our profession. There are lots of great scenes we see in our workplace as we are very close to nature.

What’s more, the type of environment that we are working in is only accessible to a very select group of people.

From the soaring sea birds, perfect sunsets, peculiar ports, and the raging seas, every scene brings wonderful images that deliver unique messages to the outside world.

So how can we turn them into extra income opportunities?

Some shipping agencies hold Photo Contests for the crew of their fleet. Everyone can join. I took part in this event and submitted my best photos to no avail of winning.

A tanker ship navigating on a calm ocean with the blue sky and a full moon ahead.
Images like this could easily win a photo contest on board.

I had a crewmate who always grabbed the first or was hailed as the champion photographer. He’s a pro in this area and is earning more than a hundred dollars just for this event.

But don’t get sad if you don’t win this contest or your company doesn’t hold one. You can look up the internet and find lots of helpful things to do with your photos like selling them online. I will cover this topic in my future posts soon so stay more of it.


The skills that I mentioned above are not the only ones that you can use to create an advantage in your sea life.

With the world swiftly transitioning to the digital world, anybody can post any content online and monetize from it. Extra income opportunities are endless.

Even doing the job the extra mile will get you noticed until one day, people will return the favor.

In the end, it is always profitable to do more than what is paid for as long as it is within the bounds of safety.
So what are you waiting for? Harness those skills and get ready to use them in your profession.

May the winds be in your favor.



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