Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bay Area Bar Pilots Christen New Pilot Boat

The newest addition to the San Francisco bar pilot fleet is the 104-foot-long pilot boat Drake.

The vessel was officially christened Wednesday by San Francisco port Director Monique Moyer during a ceremony at the San Francisco waterfront.

Named for famed English mariner Sir Francis Drake, the new vessel will soon join two other pilot boats shuttling local bar pilots to and from ocean-going vessels as they arrive and depart the harbor. The bar pilots, members of the Bar Pilots Association, climb aboard the ocean-going vessels at sea or ride with the vessels to sea – all the while providing local navigation assistance to the vessels' crews during the transits.

The Drake and her two sister pilot boats will rotate holding station about 11 miles outside of Golden Gate, each spending four days and nights on duty. Up to eight pilots at a time live aboard the vessels while at station, riding in with the ocean-going vessels entering San Francisco Bay and returning to the pilot boat aboard vessels departing. The Drake features accommodations for up to eight pilots and four crew members, is powered by two 1,100-horsepower engines and operates a fully equipped galley to service the crew 24 hours a day.

Last year, the Bay Area pilots made 4,500 pilot-to-vessel transfers, according to the Bar Pilot Association.

The California Legislature established the Bay Area bar pilots in 1850 and they are overseen by the quasi-governmental Board of Pilot Commissioners for the Bays of San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun.