Protecting the Bay for 170 Years

The San Francisco Bar Pilots are one of the oldest maritime organizations on the Pacific Coast. In the early 1800s, ships from around the world began arriving in the San Francisco Bay in large numbers. In 1850, due to the treacherous bar and navigational hazards throughout the Bay, the California Legislature recognized a great need for expert mariners to provide safe passage through the waters 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 licensed 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 comprised of approximately 60 organizations of state-licensed pilots from 25 states across the country.


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


The San Francisco Bar Pilots joined the International Maritime Pilots Association, an organization consisting of pilot associations from around the world that represents over 8,000 individual pilots in 49 countries. The Association works closely with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations specialized agency with 160 member states. The IMO sets international standards of ship safety and pollution prevention and control.


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


The San Francisco 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 during the holiday season.


The Monterey Bay was added to the San Francisco pilotage grounds.


Today there are 60 state regulated pilot associations across the country that keep America’s economy moving. The San Francisco Bar Pilots are proud to be a part of this network of piloting professionals that are dedicated to safety, service, protection of the environment and growth of the economy.