Protecting the Bay for 170 Years

The San Francisco Bar Pilots Association is one of the oldest maritime organizations on the Pacific Coast. In 1850, the Legislature of the newly-created State of California recognized the great need of expert mariners to safely pilot ships from around the world in and out of the dangerous shoals, currents, winds and tides of the Golden Gate. 

In the first ever meeting of the United States Congress, elected officials developed national guidelines for state pilotage.


With the Gold Rush and an increase in immigration, ship traffic to the region increased significantly.

Early 1840s

During the first legislative session of the new state of California, elected leaders passed laws to create the first state-sanctioned Bar Pilots. The Senate approved the Governor’s nominations for the first 12 San Francisco Bar Pilots, and the Board of Pilot Commissioners was established to oversee these new organizations.


The American Pilots' Association was founded, which to this day serves as the national association of professional maritime pilots. Its membership is made up of approximately 60 groups of state-licensed pilots from 25 states across the country.


During World War II, the San Francisco Pilot boats California and Adventuress were commissioned to the Navy to help in the War effort.


The San Francisco Bar Pilots joined the International Maritime Pilots Association, a group consisting of pilot associations from five continents and representing over 8,000 pilot members in 49 countries. The organization works closely with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN specialized agency with 160 member states, to set international standards of ship safety and pollution prevention and control.


The Bar Pilots retired the last sail powered pilot schooner and commissioned the first motor-driven pilot boat.


The SFBP pilotage grounds were expanded to include the ports of Stockton and Sacramento.


The Board of Pilot Commissioners swore in Captain Nancy Wagner, the first female pilot in the United States.


San Francisco Bar Pilots began offering its first scholarships to students at the California Maritime Academy.


The organization formed a partnership with the San Francisco Fire Department to provide toys and funds for children over the holiday season.


The Monterey Bay was added to the SFBP pilotage grounds.


Today, 60 state regulated pilot associations in 25 states across the nation keep America’s economy moving. The San Francisco Bar Pilots are proud to be a part of this network of piloting professionals dedicated to safety and service for their State’s safety, environment and economy.