Opinion

Conversation with Brett Monthie, a Tampa Bay harbor pilot


by Tampy Bay Times - published on 13 January 2021 354 -

This article was written by Philip Morgan and was already published by "Tampa Bay Times" on 26. December 2020.
Photo by Brett Monthie.


Link to the original and full article below.

When your mission is guiding ships through congested waters

Conversation with Brett Monthie a Tampa Bay harbor pilot graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

After spending years at sea, Brett Monthie had to chart the channels in Tampa Bay from memory in order to become a Tampa Bay harbor pilot. And then he spent 30 months in training. He’s one of 13 full pilots and six deputy pilots in the Tampa Bay Pilots Association. They guide the ships safely through the bay.

It’s an exacting job, and a dangerous one, considering Monthie has to hop from the pilot boat to the rope ladder hanging down the side of a ship – or from the ladder to the pilot boat – all while both vessels are traveling at about 10 knots. Monthie loves the work.

“It’s a blast. I mean, I have to pinch myself every day,’' he said.

The 36-year-old harbor pilot, a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, talked with the Tampa Bay Times about his job.

Climbing a rope ladder 30 or more feet up to and down from the main deck of a ship has to be a harrowing experience.
Harrowing I guess is a good word to describe it, because we’ve lost – not Tampa personally – but we’ve lost, out of the 1,200 pilots in the U.S., we’ve had two in the last eight months and three in the last year that have had incidents on ladders (and) passed away.

Does it mostly happen when a pilot falls from the ladder and is caught between the ship and pilot boat?
Yes, typically that’s the case.… Most of the time our boats, once we get on the ladder, they peel away from the ship to avoid that.

Climbing a rope ladder isn’t easy, is it?
No, it’s not easy. Usually going up, to me, is easier. You just look straight up and you go. Coming down is actually a little trickier. You really want to have three points of contact on that (ladder) at all times if you can. And the farther down you go, it almost becomes like a pendulum.… You’re coming off the side of the ship and almost swinging with every step.
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