The Los Angeles Times today published a good article to their website on Port of Los Angeles pilot boat operators.  The article follows “a salty pair” of veteran’s, Mark Hansen and Martin Maher, who have sailed a combined 1.5 million miles, as they speak about the job, the dangers, achievements and early retirement.

It’s chilly and hard to see at 4 a.m. as Martin Maher throttles up his turbocharged work boat against the swells. He is set to rendezvous with a Chinese container ship three miles beyond the Port of Los Angeles breakwater.

His mission: Deliver a port pilot to guide the incoming container ship through the labyrinth of narrow channels and turn basins in the nation’s busiest harbor complex.

Scanning the horizon with an unblinking squint, Maher spins the Stephen M. White’s 36-inch chrome wheel to swing around to the side of the Chinese ship, longer than three football fields. With carefully synchronized tweaks of the throttle, he matches the speed of the larger craft and sidles next to its massive hull.

As the vessels travel inches apart at 10 mph, the port pilot steps off the deck of Maher’s 15-ton boat and climbs up a 20-foot rope ladder to board the 66,000-ton container ship.

“Job done,” Maher said, heading back to his San Pedro berth in the sprawling industrial empire of flaming refinery towers, gleaming cruise ships, 400-foot-tall cranes and mountains of scrap metal.

Click HERE to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Another good read on ship pilots can be found at Smithsonian.com in an article titled Steering Ships Through a Treacherous Waterway, about Colombia River bar pilots.

Above image via Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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