Brooklyn, requires a big merchant ship to
pass through the center span. Ships often
come in with high water, which means
the current is running behind them, pro-
pelling them forward, so boat speed is of
the essence not only to maintain steerage
but also to stay on schedule. “Time is
money in this industry,” he says. “Huge
money. We’re going as fast as we can.”
When a ship meets a small boat in
a narrow channel, McGovern says the
pilot’s choices are limited. Draft con-
straints make going outside the buoys an
untenable option, because no one wants
to end up like that San Francisco pilot.
Backing down on the engines means a
10 60 20 10 60 20 10 60 20
A collision is likely if your position and heading (bearing) remain constant to another vessel, as in
the situation illustrated below. In this case, you need to take action and bear away.
No Room For Error
An expansion of the Panama Canal means
ships are getting bigger, which leaves
pilots like McGovern with even less
room for error. Even a tall bridge, like the
Verrazano-Narrows, the 200-foot-high
suspension bridge that connects the New
York City boroughs of Staten Island and
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