Take The Helm, Pilot

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  • Chris Kincaid has a job where he is in charge for only about two hours at a time.
  • Kincaid rides a 48-foot pilot boat about six miles out to sea, where the water is about 1,000 feet deep.
  • He prefers that ships travel at 7 mph, a speed the pilot boat matches as he clambers aboard.
  • Before that, Kincaid worked on a variety of vessels, including some that hauled jet fuel.

Chris Kincaid, a Port Washington native and harbour pilot, is in charge of some of the world’s largest ships as reported by Ozaukee Press.

Guiding ships

Chris Kincaid has a job where he is in charge for only about two hours at a time.

But in those precious 120 minutes, he is responsible for thousands of lives or millions of dollars worth of cargo.

Kincaid works as a harbour pilot for the Port of Miami, guiding ships to shore and back out to sea.

Kincaid has worked at the port since 2012.

Kincaid rides a 48-foot pilot boat about six miles out to sea, where the water is about 1,000 feet deep.

Advocating delays

“It keeps us on our toes, even after thousands of trips,” Kincaid said. 

Much can go wrong, including ladders not being locked into position.

Pilots have been injured or killed getting on or off.

Kincaid said there were five deaths in the last five years.

“They can argue with me but they’re not going to get anywhere,” Kincaid said, adding sometimes he has to be in the captain’s corner to advocate delays due to safety.

Kincaid said he tries to keep at least a mile between vessels to prevent their captains from getting nervous.

No guidebooks or rules

“They don’t stop on a dime,” he said of the large vessels.

There are no guidebooks or rules to follow.

The global language of shipping is English, but skill levels vary.

Many of the biggest ships, Kincaid said, are made by Hyundai of South Korea, a company known more for its cars.

Sometimes, he gets an inkling that the ship may be checked for something illegal, but he disembarks as soon as it gets into port and doesn’t see the results.

Variety of vessels

Some of Kincaid’s favourite ships are the small weathered ones from Haiti.

Their equipment often doesn’t work well, and there’s no air conditioning.

Kincaid’s schedule requires two weeks on call and two weeks off.

While on call, he lives in Fort Lauderdale, 30 minutes away.

Cables lay on the ocean floor as deep as 6,000 meters below the surface.

Before that, Kincaid worked on a variety of vessels, including some that hauled jet fuel.

Training at sea

His career path was determined in high school.

His neighbourhood included NASA employees, some of whom earned engineering degrees from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

Kincaid’s mother was a justice department paralegal, his father was a hydrogeologist and his stepfather was a postal inspector.

An entire year was spent training at sea.

It was at the academy where he met his future wife, Brigitte, who went on to join the National Guard as a pilot at the refuelling wing out of Milwaukee.

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Source: Ozaukee Press

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