As container ships grow to unprecedented lengths, the pilots tasked with driving the mega ships to port face new challenges. The bar pilots of the San Francisco Bay are learning to adapt to these new giant vessels.
Five women sitting at a long table in the beautiful San Francisco Maritime Museum building last weekend didn’t look like pioneers, but they were.
Four of them hold Coast Guard licenses that allow them to command seagoing ships. The fifth, Alice Watts, spent a lifetime on San Francisco Bay and teaches young people about the lore of the sea and ships.
They were among the very first women in positions of command aboard ships. They didn’t crack the glass ceiling the Millennials complain of — these women broke a wall that was thousands of years old, backed by long tradition and even superstition.
In the sometimes-congested waterways of the Pacific Northwest, Puget Sound Pilots are responsible for diverse vessels including containerships, tankers, articulated oil carriers, car carriers and cruise ships. Photo courtesy of the Puget Sound Pilots.
Pilots have been shepherding vessels in and out of harbors for centuries, but overall the job hasn’t changed much. Hazards that have existed for millennia are still around. Most still have to face the unpredictability of an arduous climb up and down the ubiquitous pilot ladder, which is never an easy feat, whether in calm waters or rolling seas. And even with today’s tough rules on rest, these expert navigators must keep their wits about them, despite the advent of technological advances designed to make their job easier.
Scenes of the City: On the Job with the SF Bar Pilots
By Joseph Schell on May 22, 2013 2:00 PM
One of the five pilot boats sits at Pier 9 in the early morning
May 6, 2012
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