For many years I was a successful Pub Pilot. It is an extremely dangerous job and the pay is low. I would lead four, five, even six buddies through the streets and alleys to discover the best brewskies on tap. This career led nowhere and I soon passed the pilot’s job on to younger legs and stronger stomachs.
Then I discovered the great pay and benefits of Bar Pilots when I moved to the San Francisco Bay area. I certainly wasn’t qualified nor would I ever be. The Bar Pilots Association was founded in San Francisco in 1850, one hundred and sixty three years ago. 1850 was the year San Francisco and Los Angeles incorporated as cities and California became the 31st. state. Millard Fillmore, one of the worst and second dumbest, was the President of the USA. He would never have been elected but Zachary Taylor died and so he was the lucky VP waiting in the wings. He joined the “Know-Nothing” movement (sounds familiar today) and railed against the next President, Abraham Lincoln. While Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were making history in Congress, the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association wrote their charter.
The waters surrounding the Northern California coastal harbors are some of the most treacherous and dangerous to navigate in the world. Every day and night, each oil tanker, cruise ship or cargo carrier is guided into one of the nine ports by a licensed Bar Pilot only. This is at no cost to the taxpayer since their wages are paid by the shipping companies and cruise lines. Their average pay is $450,000 per year. They are the most experienced and greatest ship captains in the world.
In January of this year, a 752 foot oil tanker hit a western-span tower of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge. The bridge remained open but the repairs were estimated at over $1.4 million dollars, plus another $220,000 in damages to the ship. The Bar Pilot, Captain Guy Kleess is in big trouble. This is his 4th accident in the last four years and he was held responsible for two of the last three so he is probably losing his license. The State licensing Board voted unanimously to suspend or revoke and the decision will be in the hands of an administrative law judge at trial.
Right away there are some of you thinking, “Aha, a Bar pilot job may be opening up and I’d like to grab some of that half a mil a year paycheck. But before you leap, you should check out how incredibly hard this job is. Watch the embedded video below. Imagine yourself trying to steer a ship the size of a skyscraper over wind-whipped waves while shouting instructions to the crew, most of whom don’t speak English.
Pub Piloting was much easier.