The ketch trade could be tough. The pay was poor, crews slept onboard and many fished to supplement their rations. Ketches were typically crewed by a skipper and one or two hands. Boys wanting to go to sea could gain their first experience in ketches before moving to steamships. Some chose ketches because the short voyages brought them back to their home ports each week.
Ketch hands were versatile. They were skilled in vessel handling, coastal navigation, rigging sails, mending, cooking, and cargo loading. They also stuffed the holds with sacks of grain or bales of wool weighing more than fifty kilograms. Ketch hands earned a reputation as tough, rough and ready sailors.