Why they call us "Pilots"

[CENTER]New meaning to the title “Mate / Pilot of Tow”
When I got my first new style mate’s license it said “Mate / Pilot of Tow”.
The old licenses used to say 1<SUP>st</SUP> or 2nd Class OUTV.
I just chalked the name change up to something to do with Pilotage.

Then it said “Master of Tow” (among other things). But you are still called a “pilot” first and foremost and usually a captain second in the towing industry.

Every time I push empties in the wind I am reminded why they call us “pilots”.

I’ll tell you why. It’s because we are “flying” those barges sideways across that channel with in excess of a 45 degree “crab angle” sometimes.

“Crab Angles” are usually only discussed and well understood by pilots. Airplane pilots, Ship pilots, and Towboat pilots all have this in common as well as a few other things like Navigating.

We all three are often called upon to navigate by instrument only in times of foul weather and other affecting forces likes winds.

Many times I have gotten caught in the middle of a Bay by the fog or a rain squall.
You can’t just pull them out of gear and wait for it to clear up.
You better be damn good at using your instruments if you want to get where you are going without incident.

It really is an art driving or “flying” empty tows in the wind in confined areas as well as just out in the middle of the bay and being able to hold a steady course made good or course over ground without the assistance of an autopilot.

Add in the dark of night and other vessel traffic to go with the often foul weather and you have a typical mid watch on a towboat that is underway.

Hats off to good towboaters that fly them empties watch after watch without incident.