Penobscot Bay Pilots


A few weeks ago I spied a big ship coming in off the horizon bound for the cargo terminal at Searsport in Penobscot Bay. In broken English the master of the ship requested the pilot meet him at 0915 at the appointed pilot boarding area just east of Matinicus Island. The pilot responded by confirming the arrival time and requesting a boarding ladder height 1.5 meters above the water, boarding speed 8 knots and a heaving line for the pilots bag. The weather was quite calm, clear and sunny, a day I am sure the pilots must be thankful for. Considering that pilots are available 24/7, 365 days a year you can just imagine the conditions they potentially face at each boarding. Fog, wind, snow, sea smoke so thick you can’t see the ship beneath you.

The Maine Pilotage Commission reported that in 2015 over 13.5 millions tons of product was carried. That cargo includes petroleum products, wood products, sand, salt and gravel and other miscellaneous items like wind turbine blades up to 150’ long. And then there are the thousands of folks who arrive in Maine by cruise ship. That makes Maine the second busiest waters in New England behind Massachusetts. Amazingly the pilots conduct themselves with a steady demeanor at all times, under all conditions including yachting traffic that departs from harbors like Camden and Rockland. By the conversations I hear on the VHF some of these yachts have absolutely no clue about the handling characteristics of large ships. Let’s just say these ships can’t stop on a dime or run up the bay in slalom course fashion. Pilots have to drive defensively at all times. For those of you that have been with me getting out of Camden you know things can get a bit dicey and how excited I can get. But that is for another blog. Thanks to the Penobscot Bay and River Pilots who keep our gas tanks full and our homes warm all winter long.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

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