The Biscayne Bay Harbor Pilots

Mar 18, 2013

If you’ve spent time at South Pointe Park in Miami Beach, you might have noticed the steady stream of cruise and cargo ships going in and out of Port Miami.  These hulking ships are one of the signature images of South Florida.

All of these ships are driven in and out of the port by a highly trained group of sea captains, also known as harbor pilots.   Harbor pilots know the waters around the port well–they have to be able to draw a map from memory as part of their qualifications.

Just before the ships make their way into or out of the narrow channel of Government Cut, the ship captains turn over control to the harbor pilots.  The harbor pilots get on to the ship by carefully driving their boats alongside the ship and then climbing up a rope ladder to the ship–even climbing up to huge cargo freighters.

There have only been 44 of these pilots since the Biscayne Bay Pilots Association was founded in 1911.  They’ve seen a lot of change in those years. More photos below.

The song in this piece was “Comienzos” by Miami band Arboles Libres.