Over the summer, we spent a day at sea with the Sandy Hook Pilots on assignment for New Jersey Monthly. We watched them scale the Jacob’s ladders of giant oil tankers and container ships to steer these behemoths safely into port.
We’d ride with the launch back and forth between ships, picking up pilots and dropping them off. It was a gorgeous day, and could easily make you think the pilot’s life is for you. But change the setting to a freezing winter day with seas kicked up ahead of a nor’easter, and you start having second thoughts. The transfer from the launch to the ladder of a 1,000-foot container ship turns from a fun leap into one of life-or-death: it has to be timed precisely, lest you fall in the drink or get squeezed between two vessels.
That’s why Pilot personalities are the perfect blend of adventurous and competent. These guys have the responsibility of ensuring that billions of dollars’ worth of global trade arrives to final destinations in the ports of New York and New Jersey.