Standing up and kicking your chair back

Some tow boaters or pilots will tell you that tow boating is hours of boredom broken up by moments of sheer terror.
I think that cliché gets used in a lot of different fields of work though.

I would have to agree of its use for tow boating. You can be sittin down with the sun shinin and doors open, listening to some music, and havin a great day and then someone runs you out of the channel or crosses your bow with a jet ski and you loose sight.

Those are just a couple instances that might make you stand up.

In most towboat wheelhouses I have been in they usually have a “pilot’s chair” for you. If you are lucky it is not as old as the boat. But I can tell you that I have never seen one mounted to the floor.

The reason is usually when a pilot stands up to make a lock, bridge, or narrow spot he stands up and kicks that chair back out of the way so he can really use his sticks if he has to.

If you watch a pilot that is really in his groove flanking a tow or doing something that takes a great deal of skill he is moving his whole body with that tow. Almost like a golfer will subconsciously move his body to try to get the ball in the hole.

The tow becomes an extension of his body almost.

A lot of places and things I used to stand up for I don’t anymore. Sometimes that is how you tell a green pilot from an veteran. The vet will watch the other pilot and if he stands up to do something he could have been sitting down for, he knows the guy is nervous or inexperienced.

But it’s when you see a veteran pilot stand up and kick the chair back when you realize he is using every bit of his concentration and skill to do whatever he is doing. Whether it’s building a tricky tow in the current or making a tough lock.

Conditions like wind and current are always changing so some places you have to alway be “on your toes” but strait line driving is usually a sit down watch.

I am not really fond of those “kickin the chair back” moments. Whenever they happen to me I know it is all on the line right then and there. In this industry you are only as good as your last poor performance so you had better get it right this time and every time or you are on the next plane home. And that is only if no one gets hurt.

You are only one miscalculation away from disaster a lot of time.

I know it can be the same way on a ship too but runnin little boats is a whole different world.

Hats off to the big ship pilots also for what they do day in and day out but I can only speak for what I know and that is hardcore towboatin.

Overloaded tows and underpowered boats are the norm sometimes. Especially when you are just “trippin” for mom and pop ops.

You take it to the edge because that is what they pay you to do. Hopefully you have a good internal meter for “the point of no return” because you can cross over the edge real easy.

I try to do only what is safe and I make sure my relief drives and makes decisions how I would. I can then sleep sound not having to worry about getting killed in the bunk or my relief killing someone else.

Not all pilots do that and to their own peril on most cases. There are some guys out there that think they are real hotshots or don’t know the limitations of their vessel well enough and get a false sense of security.

I am always try to be vigilant in my boat handling. It’s really all I have ever made decent money at so I try not to “kick the chair back” too often if i can help it.