Update 1 – Statement from Florida Harbor Pilots Association added

While boarding the Pipit Arrow, a 656-foot bulk carrier at the Panama City, FL sea buoy, 73-year old veteran ship pilot and former Coast Guardsman, Captain Frank Knowles, fell from the vessel’s jacob’s ladder and was unable to be immediately recovered in the early morning darkness.

MV Pipit Arrow

MV Pipit Arrow via ogmoimbituba.com.br

An emergency helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft from the US Coast Guard were immediately deployed, however two hours later his body was recovered by the Pipit Arrow’s fast rescue craft.

Captain Knowles’ daughter Amanda spoke to us this morning.  

“He would do anything for anybody.  He was a very loving person, liked politics, especially Fox News, and was a hard worker.  He would go out of his way to help anybody.” 

Amanda also mentioned that this was his second fall from a ship, “but it was daylight the last time he fell, and was recovered quickly,” she added.

As a former cadet, Captain Brandon Waldrip remembers Captain Knowles as “a fantastic ship-handler, a good friend, and a huge Alabama fan.”

In a phone call with the Coast Guard, they wished to “extend their thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of the mariner who lost his life.”

Captain Knowles was a licensed harbor pilot of the St. Andrew Bay Pilots Association, which serves the Ports of Panama City and Port St. Joe, and also a harbor pilot for the Port of Pensacola.  The following is a statement from the Florida Harbor Pilots Association:

“We are deeply saddened today at the loss of one of our fellow harbor pilots and a dear friend.  Captain Frank Knowles has been a dedicated and brave harbor pilot since he was licensed in 1976.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Gail, and his family.

“Words cannot express the grief and sadness that every harbor pilot across the state feels today at this tragic loss.

“According to state and federal protocol, every accident is thoroughly investigated. Further details will necessarily have to await the outcome of that investigation.”

Captain Knowles was a 40-year veteran within the maritime industry and is survived by his wife, son, two daughters, and two granddaughters.


Tagged with →  
Share →
  • Matthew Creal

    My father-in-law, Capt. Frank Knowles, was one of the greatest men I have ever had pleasure of meeting in my life. He was kind, generous, knowledgeable, and an amazing family man. He was very active in his church family and was present every Sunday unless he was called to safely guide ships in and out of our port. He was the last apprenticed harbor pilot still working todays’ harbors. He was dedicated and very much passionate about his work as a harbor pilot. Although I am deeply saddened at my family’s loss of this amazing man, I know he would have been happy to know that he joined God in heaven doing the job that he loved most and which provided a great life for his family. He will be in our hearts and loved always and forever. -Matthew Creal

    • angie johnson price

      so glad he got to know you Matt, and saw his daughter happy. THAT is what he loved too (his baby)

  • Robbie fuller

    Having put pilots on ships here in the Port of Panama City for over 37 years,off and on,I can attest to the fact that Captain Frank lost his earthly life and gained his eternal life doing exactly what he loved doing! Yes,he was past the stereotypical “retirement” age. But if anyone looks at the history of Piloting in small Ports,these men go till they can’t. Only those that have medical issues,such as with my Dad,actually retire. As happened with Capt. M.J.Beck,Captain Frank passed doing his duty he had sworn to do.Godspeed my friend! You are free now! May God bring peace to Ms.Gail and the whole family….Amen!

    • angie johnson price

      @Concepcion: mind you, I’m no “safety board” but how it happens. its been hovering around freezing temp in the panama city area of late, cold, windy, choppy waves, you grab up for the ladder and find it slippery… (and NO discriminator of age, I used to “fall off” coast guard vessels and etc,@ around age 20!)
      Frank, after his last spill in 08 increased his safety quotient, back to deck boat shoes, not sneakers… and then its dark so that once you do fall, very difficult to see you… Frank being very spry and active for his age. (70 the new 50) I have an extra perspective being a nurse… there is a huge difference in individuals. Yes you will find folks dieing and in terrible shape at age 50 even, but Frank was a nonsmoker nondrinker (Baptist) who took designs to improve his health, and his active daughter and granddaughters and wife kept him young…

      • angie johnson price

        it was just a terrible accident. he died “in the line of duty” (hazardous work) and unfortunately not always appreciated for what it is.

  • Matthew

    My father-in-law, Capt. Frank knowles, was one of the greatest men I ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was kind, generous, an amazing family man, and extremely knowledgeable. He was very active in his church family and attended service every Sunday unless he was guiding ships safely in and out of our harbor. He was the last apprenticed harbor pilot still active serving today’s harbors. He was dedicated and passionate about his job as Harbor pilot; the magazines, model ships, calendars and conversations proved that to be true . Although I am deeply saddened at my family’s loss of this great man, husband, father, and grandfather; I know he would be happy knowing that he joined God in heaven after doing what he loved most in life and a job that provided a great life for his family. He will be in our hearts and loved forever and always.
    -Matthew C. Creal

  • http://www.agencymss.webs.com Capt. Mohamed BERRAZOUANE

    Sinceres Condoléances pour sa famille, ses amis et sa corporation

  • kamin lambertson

    I believe I had Captain Frank a time or two in and out of Pensacola on both the HOS Achiever and the Global 1200. He was a nice guy, a real “old timer”, meaning he had learned his job by doing it. He was kind of quiet as anyone with any sense tends to be these days, not a big story teller.. Maybe I just didn’t get to know him though, the trip is short across the bay there. I wish his family the best and add to the comments to confirm that there is nothing wrong with dying in the line of duty in our business. There is a better way than the pilot ladder on my ship(s), its a personnel basket on a crane. Not all ships have this, and the pilot boat needs a landing area for the basket.

  • Alex

    RIP to Captain Knowles and condolences to his family and loved ones.

  • http://www.severnsideconsultants,com Capt. Roland J. Murray

    My sincere condolences to Captain Frank Knowles family. It is always saddening to hear of events like this. May Frank R.I.P.

  • S M Sherwood

    RIP. Fair winds and following seas.

  • CDR Rob Smith, USCG & KP ’92

    My prayers and condolences go out to the family and friends of Captain Frank Knowles and the St Andrew Bay Pilot’s Association.

  • Bob Crutch Crutchfield

    Very Sad news indeed, my condolences to his Family. I knew Frank many years ,very nice fellow,had the pleasure of docking him once or twice over the yrs and taking him out on his pilot Boat many yrs ago . Below here a Poem written /dedicated to Frank`s fellow Pilot Capt. Dave Maddox of Port St Joe ,Florida for his 91st birthday by my daughter Anna Crutchfield . I do not think Capt.Dave will mind me sharing his special Poem here for Capt. Frank and his Family , as Frank was his friend for many yrs also.To Frank & the Knowles family the Poem says all ,please read below….

    Dedicated to Capt. Dave Maddox
    By : Anna L. Crutchfield

    Set me on a ship,
    That guides yon vessels home .
    Set me at the vanguard,
    Before the equine foam.
    Let me brave the darkened nights
    When ` round me boats do pitch .
    Let me climb the Pilot`s ladder,
    let me serve my hitch .
    When floundering vessels enter ,
    My harbour or my port.
    It is I that will faithfully lead them
    In weather of any sort.
    For I fear not winds ,or waves,
    Or frigid , freezing cold
    With the mighty Lord on my side
    I fear not being bold.
    Oh! Set me on a ship !
    which guides yon vessels home
    and when I`m old and grey,
    To Heaven`s Gates I`ll roam.
    Before the pearly gates
    The Lord will meet with me ,
    and like the days of my youth ,
    Steer me home into eternity .

  • Timothy L. O’Neil

    Fair winds and following seas to a fellow shipmate!.

  • Juan Alberto Alvarez

    As a member of world`s family pilots my prayers and condolences go for family friends and coleagues of Captain Frank

    From the Port of Barranquilla Colombia

  • Ann Ryan

    The staff here at MOPS would like to express sincere condolences to the family of Captain Knowles at his sad and premature passing.

Sign up for the gCaptain Newsletter!

Over 32,000 people receive the gCaptain email newsletter every single day. Get the maritime and offshore industry headlines that matter sent straight to your inbox. Or LIKE us on Facebook!

We will not share your email address with anybody for any reason