The Port Angeles Pilot Station at Ediz Hook is shown in the 1990s. (Rex Gerberding)

The Port Angeles Pilot Station at Ediz Hook is shown in the 1990s. (Rex Gerberding)

BACK WHEN: A look at life at the Port Angeles Pilot Station

THERE WERE NO responses to the March picture from the past.

The photo was the Port Angeles Pilot Station at Ediz Hook taken in the 1990s.

It was completed in July 1985 for $225,000.

The main headquarters for the Puget Sound Pilots is in downtown Seattle near Pike Place Market, where the dispatcher keeps track of ships, the pilots and the pilots’ order of call.

Their second home, affectionately referred to as the “tired pilot’s rest home,” is the building in the photo.

The association renovated the station in 1999-2001. They added a dock and a barge for the two larger pilot boats.

The newest pilot boats were $3.5 million each.

Since the early days of shipping with the sailing ships, there have been pilots to guide the ships through the waters of Puget Sound.

A pilot commission for Puget Sound was created by a territorial act in 1868.

It was repealed later and another act came into being, and in 1935 the Puget Sound Pilots organization was created to answer to the state of Washington’s requirement that all foreign vessels traveling on Puget Sound and adjacent waters, and U.S. ships engaged in foreign trade must have pilot services.

Sometime in 1941, the pilots moved from Port Townsend to Port Angeles.

Before then, Port Townsend was the center of the pilot activity.

They lived in hotels between jobs and were taken to the ships by the Johnson Tugboat Co.

In 1942, they were taken into the Coast Guard for the duration of World War II.

In 1947, a barge was acquired from the Coast Guard and pulled up on the beach, where the current building resides.

This became their central location where they could rest between jobs.

They also had two pilot boats — the Prosper and the Pilot — and they hired boatmen to operate and maintain them.

The barge had six staterooms, a lounge and galley for the convenience of the pilots, and a radar set that could detect ships even in the foggiest conditions.

In 1974, the Prosper, a pilot boat since 1926, was replaced by a new 50-foot fiberglass vessel.

The Prosper was purchased for $3,000 in 1926 by the Pilot’s Association.

Her main duty was to carry pilots to and from the Ediz Hook Pilot’s Station.

To become a member of the Puget Sound Pilots, an applicant must have a state license to operate vessels in Puget Sound and adjacent inland waters, have the endorsement of the Coast Guard on his master’s license for Puget Sound, pass a state examination and be in perfect physical condition.

Each one of these pilots has had full command of a vessel and knows ships as they all start out as a merchant seaman.

Presently the current average is 23 years as a mariner prior to becoming a pilot.

They operate on a rotation schedule which means two weeks on call and then two weeks off plus being on call their weeks off.

Their days can be very long depending on the schedules of ships coming into the Sound.

Gov. Jay Inslee has just signed a proclamation that honors 150 years of the Pilotage Act on Puget Sound.

The Pilotage Act was signed in 1868 by Territorial Gov. Marshall F. Moore.

The act established regulations for pilots and pilotage for the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.

Linda Styrk from the Seattle Puget Sound Pilots has been working with Inslee to get the 150 years proclamation enacted.

She is very interested in the history of the pilots and maritime affairs in our state.

She said there is a good future for school students in the Maritime business as our state has many opportunities to learn.

Seattle Central College has a Maritime Academy in Ballard where students can learn to become a merchant seaman and then move on up the ladder.

Capt. Eric von Brandenfels, president of the Puget Sound Pilots, shared some of the background for this article, including the association’s renovation of the Port Angeles Pilot Station in 1999-2001 and the requirements for becoming a pilot.

The older pilots are retiring but there aren’t enough young people stepping into the breach, as many don’t realize there are potential career choices available in the maritime industry as a whole, Von Brandenfels said.

Styrk wrote an article published in Pacific Maritime Magazine that highlights a day in the life of a pilot. Some of her comments were:

“It all starts with a call from dispatch with my job assignment details.

“If I am assigned to reposition myself out to the pilot station to be available for inbound ship traffic expected later that day, I drive from Seattle out to the pilot station in Port Angeles.

“I pick up my assignment and am expected to pick up a ship coming in from Ningbo, China, and estimated to arrive in Port Angeles at 1 in the morning.

“The ship is headed to Pierce County Terminal in Tacoma and expected to arrive there at 6:30 a.m.

“So I hit the rack to get some sleep until my wake-up call at midnight.

“I get up and first verify there was no change to my ship assignment and start prepping, including calculating tides, currents, checking weather conditions and status of tugs, the second pilot and harbor congestion in Tacoma.

“After that, I get my backpack ready with all my navigation info and equipment, don my float coat and helmet and head out.

“It’s dark and bitter cold as I walk down the ramp to the pilot boat.

“A full moon might make the whitecaps on the waves more visible than normal this time of year, which is a welcome contrast to the usual dreariness of a cold winter’s night assignment.

“I board the pilot boat along with another pilot who is boarding another ship right after me.

“We head out to my ship first.

“The swell is moderate and the water a bit choppy — pretty good conditions for this time of year.

“As we pull up alongside, I head to the boarding platform, secure my gear and position myself for jumping onto the pilot ladder.

“After making sure everything is in good working order, I take a deep breath and well-timed jump.

“I launch myself from the pilot boat onto the Jacob’s ladder. I start climbing up while the pilot boat stands by in the event the ladder breaks or I fall.

“After the multi-story climb up the side of the ship I’m safely aboard.

“After the crew leads me to the bridge and ship’s captain, we conduct a formal conversation to exchange essential information about the ship, etc. before I take the con as pilot.

“As I see Elliott Bay emerging on the port (left) side and the Seattle city lights reflecting onto the water, I give an order to the mate on watch to reduce speed.

“Another hour or so and Commencement Bay comes into view.

“Three tugs approach, one of which carries a second pilot that will be boarding to assist in navigating the 5,400-TEU vessel into the narrow Blair Waterway.

“Although the 935-foot long vessel is not nearly as large as many of the ships I handle, it is a challenge threading the needle with vessels at berth on both sides of the waterway.”

Styrk’s article goes on with much more detail, but I have just given you a taste of what the pilots encounter in each of their jobs.


Alice Alexander is a Clallam County historian, author, and a descendent of an Elwha Valley pioneer family. She is a recipient of a 2014 Clallam County Heritage Awards. She can be reached at

Alice’s Clallam history column appears the first Sunday of every month, alternating with Linnea Patrick’s Jefferson County history column on the third Sunday of the month.

<strong>April picture from the past </strong>                                Do you recognize this beach scene? It is 1907. Please send your comments to Alice Alexander, at 204 W. Fourth St. Apt. 14, Port Angeles, WA 98362 or email her at and she will include them in her column May 6. Comments need to be in by April 20 to be included.

April picture from the past Do you recognize this beach scene? It is 1907. Please send your comments to Alice Alexander, at 204 W. Fourth St. Apt. 14, Port Angeles, WA 98362 or email her at and she will include them in her column May 6. Comments need to be in by April 20 to be included.

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