Unfortunately, I didn't stay on the boats long enough to get my pilot's
license :( 20/20 hindsight.
But, for that $100K-$200K, those guys have one of the most stressful
jobs there is. You see, when a towboat pilot gets it all wrong, he
often has AT LEAST several minutes to watch the disaster unfold in front
of his eyes, all while sitting helplessly as 50K, 60K tons (or more) of
cargo, barges and towboat, pushed by the unstoppable force of Ole Man
River, majestically careen onward. The consequences of a river pilot
error have all too often included the loss of the towboat, with all
hands. Heart attacks, + other stress - related health issues, along
with marital problems are all too common.
The U.S.C.G, along with corporate management that is increasingly
clueless about towboat operations, is making it harder and harder for
rivermen to love their work. Thirty years ago, the river was sort of
the last American frontier..... Now, well, big government and big
business have taken much of the joy out of it.
As a fourth generation riverman, I grew up in the business, and I've
known many of the legendary (at least within our industry) pilots, as
well as some who never saw a bridge pier they couldn't manage to hit.
All in all, I'm kind of glad I came ashore, and became one of the guys
who makes a living (you could say) cleaning up after the pilot's
screw-ups. Much less stressful, and still very interesting.
Some of my very good friends are towboat pilots, and it's always been my
belief that the best towboat pilots could be top race car
drivers......they have almost supernatural depth perception, possess a
sixth sense for feeling what the river is doing under them, and have the
nerve to wait until EXACTLY the right instant to make a rudder or
throttle movement that means success, if they get it right, or disaster
if they don't.
All in all, it's a very fascinating business, and it's been good to me.
From: derf [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Sunday, May 11, 2008 9:34 PM
To: Bud Osbourne
Cc: Ed's Shop; Spridgets@autox.team.net
Subject: Re: [Spridgets] It's always something*
Towboat cap'ns can earn about $200k per year. Not bad work if you
have the love for the river.
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