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Here’s an article published by the USCG on this profession. And here’s my article/photos from the October 2016 issue of Professional Mariner on Lakes Pilots Association, District 2. The photos in this post are outtakes from that article.
Below the captain of Huron Belle maneuvers into position to switch a District 2 pilot for a District 3 pilot on an upbound ship at the south end of Lake Huron.
Here Great Lakes tugs Mississippi and
Nebraska finesse a ship to negotiate a narrow bridge span on the Maumee River, as guided
by a Lakes District pilot. Imagine calling the commands to ship’s helm and tugs on bow and stern while watching this evolution from the bridge wing 700′ back from where the ship steel could splinter the bridge wood and steel. A seiche here can cause the river to run upstream, and that bridge, which sees a fair amount of water traffic, is a midwest version of the Portal Bridge.
Pilots read the water as well as a plethora of tools to keep shipping without incident. Mark Twain said that as a pilot he “mastered the language of the river,” and that’s still a requirement today.
And there’s always the transfer of pilots, which represents a significant risk.
This was a calm day, but in adverse conditions,
this is a challenge not to be understated.
Almost all photos here by Will Van Dorp.
A big smile covers my face now. Call me Jane (or Call me, Jane.) Address me as “sixth borough president and historian” if you like; I don’t cost taxpayers anything.
Three weeks ago just before I headed for work, an email popped onto my screen from Alexis Mainland. She explained she does a NYTimes column called “New York Online” and wanted to profile “Tugster.” The 30-minute telephone interview lasted for a fun hour, and Alexis Mainland’s good questions yielded a fine article here (already online and in the Metropolitan section of 2/20/2011 Sunday’s paper) . If you read it online and wish to leave a comment on the Times site, please do so.
Since the article mentions some of my “offices,” I pasted in this map; click on it anywhere to make it interactive. You can follow Richmond Terrace starting westward from the northeast corner of Staten Island, a locality called St. George. The dotted lines in the water leading to St. George reflect the Staten Island Ferry route to Manhattan’s Whitehall. Richmond Terrace offers great views of the Kill Van Kull, the curvy strip of water separating Staten Island from Bayonne, NJ. If you follow Richmond Terrace to the west, past the Bayonne Bridge and Shooter’s Island, you see a strip of green on the Elizabethport, NJ side called Arthur Kill Park, another of my “offices.”
Seriously, the article gets it and takes the “sixth boro” seriously, and I’m grateful for that. I think it’s important that we be cognizant of the seminal value of the harbor and its pivotal role in this becoming a metro area of 20 million people. Out of 192 countries on the face of the earth today, 135 have a smaller population than metro NYC!
Last summer thanks to a passage to Philadelphia I made on Gazela, I finally read Harvey Oxenhorn’s Tuning the Rig. Gazela fotos here and here (scroll thru). Here’s a favorite section of the book, in which Oxenhorn describes an encounter with a Greenland family in Nuuk (Gothab), and he locks eyes with a young woman standing with her daughter and husband:
“When those eyes met mine, she realized I was staring at her. She stared back and then began to laugh. That got me laughing too. My presence was a bit preposterous. But not unwelcome; they had joy to spare. Soon everyone picked up on the joke and joined in. They laughed at me looking; I laughed at their laughing while watching me laugh. I laughed. They laughed. We laughed together until the reasons for the laughing were forgotten and the only thing that mattered was the pure free pleasure of it all.”
Doing this blog and getting your comments and support gives me that “pure free pleasure.” And if you learn something from the blog, great because I learn several things every day from it as well. And if you wish to disagree with or add to anything I write, send a comment or a private email. And I love it when you send along fotos or suggestions about posts. Huzzah the NYTimes. Huzzah the sixth boro!