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Ships And Ladders

A pilot prepares to board a ship at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. 

A pilot prepares to board a ship at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. 

It’s a stormy morning near the Virginia Capes as the pilot boat Patapsco maneuvers alongside a bulk carrier. With waves crashing over the bow, the captain of the small pilot vessel must skillfully position Patapsco within feet of the moving ship to allow a pilot to board.

The pilot’s job is to safely guide the slow and cumbersome ship out of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay and into the Atlantic Ocean. But first he must hop off the pilot boat and scramble up the side of the moving ship using a Jacob’s Ladder. Watch as a crewmember offloads a gear bag before the pilot scales the ship’s formidable topsides.

Becoming a pilot takes many years of specialized schooling, an intense apprenticeship period and then an official licensing test. The test Maryland pilots take includes a section where they must draw, by hand, all of the major Chesapeake charts, including depths, navigation markers, landmarks, bridge heights and other pertinent information, all from memory.  


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VIDEO: Of Mouse And Mayflower

The Mayflower II, a 1957 reproduction of the original ship that brought Pilgrims to the New World nearly 400 years ago, is undergoing a complete refit at the Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. Among the upgrades she is receiving are all-new stays for her three masts. This video from the museum shows how a rigger fabricates a mouse — an elaborate work of marlinspike seamanship — for each stay.

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Chainsaws And Chisels

Built in 1910, Tally Ho is an Albert Strange-designed, gaff-rigged cutter being rebuilt in Sequim, Washington, by Leo Goolden, who recently acquired two massive purple heart timbers to replace Tally Ho’s tired old tea keel. This video shows Goolden using chainsaws, chisels and reciprocal saws to scarf the two long timbers together.

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30 Days At Sea

Made from at least 80,000 images tied together into 1.5 terabytes of video footage, this 30-day time-lapse follows the journey of a containership from the Red Sea to Hong Kong, China. Watch from the bridge as the ship steams through storms, glides beneath a star-filled sky and ties up at ports along the way.


VIDEO: Local Knowledge

Pilots in Boston, Massachusetts, have the experience, know-how and local knowledge needed to safely guide large ships in and out of Boston Harbor.


No Butt Shucking!

Curtis “Fuzzy” Wilson knows a thing or two about oysters — he’s been shucking them professionally for 35 years. The Virginia native spends the Chesapeake Bay oyster season shucking several bushels of the stubborn bivalves each day, reminding rookies to never open an oyster up from the rear, a shucking faux pas known as “butt shucking.”

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Florida Continues Post-Michael Recovery Efforts

It’s been nearly two weeks since Hurricane Michael roared ashore near Mexico Beach, Florida. Recovery efforts are expected to last months, especially for marinas, dry stacks and other marine-related businesses.

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Watch Your Feet!

Watch a behemoth white shark breach underneath a harpooning platform while a research technician from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy tries to tag it. The breach was so close that it caused the technician to nearly leap out of his sea boots.


10 Billion Oysters

A single oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day, making the bivalve a critical puzzle piece in the effort to clean up Chesapeake Bay. Twenty groups, ranging from oyster farmers to research organizations, plan to boost the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population to 10 billion by 2025, improving the Bay’s water quality in the process.