A little right of track on Columbia River - Unmitigated Speech

Was outbound on the Columbia a few years back. I wasn’t watching too close so I was a little bit startled when I noticed how close we were to stbd and I told the pilot we seemed a little close.

The pilot told me I wouldn’t know where were in the channel so I went down to my office where I had INavX running on my IPad. I came back up to the bridge and took a screen shot.

When the pilot heard the IPad shutter sound he said, “Ok. I was a little late on that turn.”

Here’s the screen shot - the light blue line is ship’s track.

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Good CYA. Could you see the ranges?

Plenty of water out there!

Maybe you should have been mumbling into the ECDIS/ARPA

Failure on the pilot’s part per BRM to let the bridge team know he was late on his turn, right of track, and coming left to get back to center channel. Also a douchy response to the Master’s concern.


No ECDIS, no range lights, did have INavX running on an IPad in my office. Wasn’t watching the pilot that close, by the time I noticed how close we were to stbd it was a little late in the game. If I’d noticed earlier I would’ve just checked the chart.

Don’t know precisely how close but it was fairly obvious. Doesn’t show on the screen shot because I didn’t take the screen shot until I’d gone down to my office and back.

Agreed, not a proper response from the pilot. However, there is plenty of water there, and the channel lines are just the deep draft portion of river; they are not lines that cannot be crossed. Pilots purposefully leave the maintained channel at times. This had to be more than a “few” years ago. PPU’s have been required to be carried by pilots on the Columbia River for quite awhile now.

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There is a Harbor here, Hilo Bay. It is relatively large compared to some of our other ports. While in transit inbound towards the main basin, one must pass a few very shallow rocky spots. If you stay on the range line you pass very close to a lighted buoy marking a dangerous rock.

But if you go off range on purpose, staying north of the range, you are still within very deep water and a safe distance away from the rocks. So that’s what I and some other pilots do.

Cruise ship Captains refer to me (and others) as
“The ones that do the Wiggle” on the way in.

They are perplexed as to why we go off range on purpose. I’ve explained it a thousand times during my MPX. To deaf ears.

To be clear, I’m not defending the CRP situation. I wasn’t there.

But it’s true that there are times that NOT being on the range is safer. Like when we enter Honolulu Harbor and elect to stay ‘upwind’ on the entrance range on a blustery trade wind day. Doing this on a large box ship, tanker in ballast, or cruise ship is a routine effort. Regular Captains that call here frequently know what we are doing. Others, if they say anything, I’ll explain what’s happening. But the observant ones can usually see it themselves.

Does Captain Ron wiggle?

I’m a Captain with Norwegian Cruise Line, currently assigned to the world’s only U.S.-registered large passenger vessel, the Pride of America.

Endorsed by the USCG as a First-Class Pilot for the the harbors of Kahului (Maui), Hilo (Hawaii), Nawiliwili (Kauai) and Honolulu via Main Ship Channel (Oahu), I act as the vessel’s de facto pilot as well.

I began my career in 1992 with Commodore/Crown Cruise Line, spending nearly 9 years working my way from 3rd Officer to Staff Captain. Following that organization’s untimely demise, I moved to American Classic Voyages for a year, sailing as First Officer and Safety Officer, my first experience in the Hawaiian market.

I began my career with Norwegian Cruise Line in the summer of 2003. In 2006, I was afforded the opportunity to assume command for the first time. In 2008, business plans changed - I stepped back into the Staff Captain’s role until 2011, when I once again was afforded the privilege of serving as Captain under the NCL banner. Every day is about striving for excellence and improving my performance in some fashion.

A ship’s Captain should be a role model and a leader, and work to inspire his team to perform at levels beyond what they previously believed possible. I have a rather substantial library devoted to preparing me to do just that, and its pages are well worn.

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Transportation from the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

I live with my wife and 2 sons in Myrtle Beach, SC. An avid cyclist and a fitness enthusiast, I firmly believe the following (attributed to Socrates):

“No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”

A strong body allows one’s mind to do its best work.


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You have done well sir. Your officers will benefit from your work ethic and attention to detail.

I have no idea. You’ll have to ask him.

For those that don’t already know, we’ve nothing to do with NCLA and their vessel POA. They do their own Piloting (US Officers on US ship in US waters).

The point here is wrt the use of mitigated speech. Another article here Mitigated Speech in Leadership

For the OP I should have said the Columbia River pilots are very good and are probably the pilots I most enjoy working with, except for the long transit. Which is true.

I didn’t use mitigated speech at the time because I was caught by surprise.

This is from the NTSB’s report on the El Faro:

The concept of mitigated speech is common in a hierarchical system, such as on the bridge of a ship. If a member of the bridge team disagrees with the captain and takes action to defy or challenge his or her authority, that is considered insubordination, which could result in disciplinary action.

In this case the pilot can’t exactly take disciplinary action but they can cause a captain a lot of trouble. In this case it was just a condescending remark. The pilot had a quick change in attitude when he learned there was an electronic record of our track.

Pilot loosened up after, we chatted a bit, turns out we both made our first trip on that river with the same tug captain.

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While transiting the panama canal some years ago, as 3rd mate, the captain was off the bridge. The pilot ( in my opinion anyway ) was distracted by a visitor he brought aboard while approaching a turn. I was getting a bit concerned and said something like " do you generally hold off on making this turn for some reason" . He had his back to the window, talking to his guest. I forget what he said back exactly but it was something like don’t worry mate. He still didn’t turn around. I came back with thanks Captain, I just never went between 2 red buoys before. He turned around.

Is that mitigated speech ?

I am sure he was experienced, and it would have been fine. The issue isn’t to save the day - the issues is to say something when you are uncomfortable. Knowing you are probably wrong - but doing it anyway - just in case you may be right.


Absolutely. It gets the antennas up.

If your INAVX system is using a cell signal you may not be getting an accurate or updated position. A good number of captains use a transmitter that sends the ships AIS via WIFI to their preferred device. They are not expensive and relatively accurate provided your AIS ships foot print is the same.


As far as the mitigated speech, I would prefer the term professional discourse. Anytime a master has a question or issue it is welcome conversation. A few seconds of clarification and save a lifetime of trouble.

Edit — Most questions about transit come from younger junior officers who are more dialed in with the ECDIS.

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Exactly what I was using:

But the IPad was down in my office at the time. What caught my attention was limbs from the trees on the bank hanging out over the river. Thought we might damage our starboard running light. :upside_down_face:

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I agree and in fact there was no risk of grounding.

Perhaps pilots find it a burden having to explain to the captain what they intended wrt navigation but the captain is ultimately responsible for the ship.

You were right to speak up. In good water at the time, but not the intended track. In other places, you don’t have that room. Good job sir.

In theory yes, but if you want to stay in the good graces of the pilot in some cases it’s better to wait until it’s irrefutably obvious that the vessel is straying towards a hazard before saying something - but of course well before the ship is in extremis.

That wasn’t the case here, the ship was never at risk of grounding. Obviously we were too far right but not in any danger.

Of course that approach has problems as well but this is a strong argument for a properly set up ECDIS (berth to berth). The pilot can argue with the captain all day long but it’s much more difficult to argue against pixels on a screen. As in this case with the IPad/NavX.