May 30 | 6:30pm | Hybrid | Free
Captain Robert Johnson joins the Seaport Museum to share the history, explore the concept, and recount his most harrowing experiences as a bar pilot on the Columbia River, which runs from British Columbia, Canada to the Oregon Coast. In this presentation, Capt. Johnson will share visuals that illustrate how pilots board ships in the open water and the brave work that these skilled people do to traverse some of the world’s roughest waters.
Get your ticket to hear Capt. Johnson share his knowledge from time spent as a Columbia River bar pilot in one of the world’s most notorious stretches of water. The difficulty of traversing the waters where the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean meet is known to seafarers globally. The speaker will also look forward to the future of piloting and discuss how it may evolve in our fast-changing modern world.
Advanced registration is required for Zoom participants and encouraged for in-person attendees though walk-ups will be accommodated as possible. A complimentary beverage is included.
Please Note This is a Past Program, Event, or Activity
Piloting is a unique profession in which a highly trained local captain boards a vessel to guide it through difficult-to-navigate waters using local knowledge pertaining to every aspect of the area in which the pilot works. The different terminology reflects the body of water and skills needed from the pilot: a bar pilot guides vessels over a river bar, river pilots move ships up and down rivers, North Sea pilots work on the North Sea, and harbor pilots are sometimes referred to as docking masters, due to their responsibility to maneuver ships in and out of docks. Here in New York Harbor, the world-renowned Sandy Hook Pilots have been guiding ships into and out of New York Harbor since 1694.
Serving long apprenticeships, pilots must master an intimate knowledge of vessel operations in their arena. Knowing weather, currents, the bottom contours of the body of water, how different ships handle, and what to expect from local traffic allows a pilot to provide the best service so as to maximize safety while still squeezing the greatest economic potential out of a ship call. Safety and economics are often on opposite ends of the scale and pilots are an important and independent arbiter of those ends.
About the Speaker
Captain Robert Johnson is a seasoned maritime professional with a career spanning several decades. After graduating from the Merchant Marine Academy, he spent a significant portion of his 15-year sailing career––four of which he served as Master––on foreign flagged bulk carriers that “tramped” the globe, transporting various cargoes. During his time ashore, Capt. Johnson worked as the Time Charter Operations Manager at one of the prominent grain companies in their New York main office. In 1987, Johnson became a member of the Columbia River Bar Pilots, where he safely guided vessels through the challenging waters at the mouth of the Columbia River. Additionally, he actively contributed to the management of the organization and represented the Bar Pilots on the Oregon Board of Maritime Pilots, a position bestowed upon him by the Governor. After a career spanning 30 years as a pilot, Capt. Johnson retired in 2017. Currently, he shares his wealth of knowledge and experience by working part-time at the local community college as a respected instructor of Radar and Automatic Radar Plotting Aid classes.
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