San Francisco Stories

Bar Pilots

January 14, 1850, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

The Pilot Law

Our last accounts of the doings of the Legislature, stated that an act entitled, "An act in relation to the appointment of pilots for the different ports of California," had passed the Assembly. We are uninformed as to the provisions of the act, or the mode and manner of appointment. It is highly necessary that some pilot law should be passed, that pilots should be created, and that proper rules for their government should be adopted. We should have none but competent men, and they should be well paid for their services; but, at the same, time, the interests of the maritime community should be consulted, and the tax upon them be made as light as practicable. Above all, there should be no monopoly permitted, no association suffered to exist to screw usurious fees for piloting a vessel into a safe harbor.

The evils existing at the great and important port of New Orleans from the perfect monopoly which there prevails, have long and justly been complained of. But while the largest liberty should be permitted, the most stringent regulations to prevent the appointment of other than experienced and competent men to so responsible a position should be adopted. From the time the pilot puts his foot upon the vessel's deck he is "sole monarch of all he surveys" and as powerful as the autocrat of all the Russias, as far as the vessel is concerned. Ship, cargo and the lives of the passengers and crew are in his hands, and ignorance, imprudence or design may sacrifice all.

There are many most capable persons in the country who have gone "down to the sea in ships" and are in every way amply qualified to become pilots. We anxiously hope that the pilots of California will be at the head of their class.

May 14, 1850, Sacramento Transcript, Sacramento, California

Board of Pilots

It has been our intention for some time back, to urge the necessity of the establishment of a Board of Pilots for Sacramento City.

Sacramento 1850.

Sacramento 1850.

As our commerce increases, we should remove every obstacle in its way tending to retard its free growth. If ship masters are continually liable of falling into the hands of inefficient pilots, it cannot fail to be, in the end, a serious drawback to the commercial interests of our place The existence of a board of men, who can be depended upon, as thoroughly trustworthy and competent to navigate vessels on the Sacramento up to this place, the head of ship navigation would inspire the commercial community with a degree of confidence, which would warrant them in sending a larger number of vessels to Sacramento, than they otherwise would.

It is bad economy in the end, to place a ship in the hands of a pilot, who, being perhaps of less experience than others, is willing to charge less for his services. We have seen and known of vessels grounded through ignorance, and sometimes bad management, detained many days in the river, while other provokingly enough, would pass on by them, and up to Sacramento. In addition to the time thus lost, and the expenses thus running on, every one knows that a few days in California, make wonderful differences in the prices of various articles; and those vessels that arrive most expeditiously, can take every advantage of the markets. There is, besides the time lost, the additional expense and the loss of interest of money, some little danger of a serious injury to the vessel while ashore, on the flats, if not of a total loss.

San Francisco. International Port of Call.

Very many gentlemen have, heretofore, offered their services to take charge of vessels bound from San Francisco to Sacramento City, who have differed as much, in experience and knowledge of the channel as they have in nautical ability. It is impossible as a general thing for the mercantile community to decide which of these gentlemen it would be safe to select. This want of confidence is certainly very retarding to our interests, and all the above named disadvantages would be done away with, were there a regularly constituted board of pilots in existence. It was for reasons seen above, that we had determined to use our endeavors towards having such a board established. We are happy to learn, however, that the affair is rapidly regulating itself.

It will be recollected that some time since the Legislature established a board of pilots in San Francisco harbor. We are informed that a branch of pilots for Sacramento is now established, whose members will take vessels from the Bay to our city. We herald this with great pleasure, as so much gained for Sacramento. Three gentlemen are already appointed and three others are soon to join them. Those who have already entered upon their duties, are Capt. Charles Clarke and Messrs. Charles E. and N.E. Faulkenburg. From actual knowledge with regard to the first named gentleman and from inquiries with regard to the last two, we are convinced that they are fully competent to discharge the responsible duties of their station to the satisfaction of the commercial and mercantile communities.

We do not deny that there are other gentleman thoroughly capable of piloting vessels to our city, but we rejoice, that, in case of doubt, merchants and ship masters can now have no cause for hesitancy — having a board of pilots at their commands in whom they can place entire dependence.

January 26, 1861, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Another Pilot Bill

In Senate to-day, Mr. Sharp introduced another pilot bill.

Section 1 — lt shall be the duty of the Governor to appoint four experienced and competent citizens of the City and County ot San Francisco, who, together with the President ot tbe Chamber of Commerce, shall constitute a Board of Pilot Commissioners for the port of San Francisco, and of all the waters inside of the Bar, passing through the mouth of the harbor of San Francisco.

Section 2 — The Commissioners shall keep an oflice in the city, and shall meet at least once month. They shall elect one of their number as President, who shall be authorised to administer all necessary oath in the same manner and with the like effect as Notaries Public. They shall make by-laws and rules for their own government, and all needful ruled and regulations for the government of pilots, and establish penalties for the breach thereof; provided, that such rules and regulations shall not be inconsistent with tthe provisions of tbe laws of this State, or of the United States.

Section 3 — A majority of such Commissioners shall constitute a quorum for tho transaction of business.

Section 4 — Provides for the appointment of a Secretary, who shall keep the books, receive and pay moneys when ordered to do s0, to register tbe names of all pilots, date of license and place of residence. Books and registers shall always be open to inspection to all interested. His compensation shall be fixed by the Board.

Section 5 — Neither the Commissioners nor Secretary shall have any interest in any pilotboats or earnings thereof.

Section 6 — Immediately after the passage of the act, the Commissioners or a majority ot them, shall proceed to license such number of pilots as shall be deemed necessary, not to exceed twenty.

Section 7 — Persons applying to act as pilots, shall be American citizens, not under twentyone years of age, and shall be rigidly examined by the Commissioners before two or more licensed pilots, touching their qualifications and knowledge of the management of square-rigged and other vessels, and of tides, sounding, bearings, and distance of the different shoals, rocks, bars and points of land, night lights of said harbor and bay; and if deemed qualified shall receive a license as pilot, which shall expire in twelve months.

Tbe Commissioners shall be required to renew said license, unless good cause to the contrary be shown; provided, that until two or more pilots are licensed as provided for by this section, the examination as herein prescribed shall be conducted by the Commissioners before two or more competent shipmasters, to be selected by the said Commissioners, for this purpose.

Section 8 — Every licensed pilot, previous to catering upon the discharge of his duties, shall give bond in the sum of $2,000 payable to the State, for the faithful performance of his duty, which bond shall be approved by the Commissioners, and filed in their ofice. The Commissioners may require the pilots to renew their bonds and sureties whenever they deem it necessary, provided the persons on the bond are unable to qualify.

Section 9. — The Commissioners shall have full power to suspend pilots for misconduct, or inattention to their duty, and, on proof thereof, shall revoke their licenses, provided due notice be given to the pilot, and an opportunity allowed him to be heard in hiw own defense.

Section 10. — Every pilot who shall absent himselt from duty for more than one month, except on leave granted by the Commissioners, or by reason of sickness, shall be considered as having forfeited his license.

Section 11 — Every pilot boarding a vessel shall, on request of the master, exhibit his license, and on refusing forfeit $50.

Section 12 — Dismissal for intoxication.

Section 13 — For carelessness or neglect in piloting to be incapacitated thereafter, and liability on bond.

Section 14 — Makes it the duty of tbe pilot arriving in the harbor, to have the vessel safely moored in such position as the harbor master, or master of the vessel, may direct; if the pilot be called upon to heave the vessel to the wharf, or drop her into the stream, he shall do so without extra charge.

Section 15 — Provides for the redress of complaints against the pilots.

Section 16 — Provides that any person not holding a license as pilot or who shall pilot or offer to pilot any vessel to or from the port of San Francisco, by the way of the Heads, except such as are exempt, shall be fined or imprisoned. And any master on board of any ship or vessel who shall employ a person not holding a license granted by the Commissioners under this Act, to assist him in piloting his ship to or from the port, via the Heads, shall be liable to pay to the Board $500.

Section 17 — Provides that on the discharge of a pilot from an outward bound vessel, the pilot-boat on the station shall give all reasonable aid for taking out and receiving such pilot, as also for sending him to city or quarantine.

Section 18 — Provides tbat every pilot blown oil, or carried off against his will, when a boat is in attendance to receive him. shall be paid $8 per day while absent, to be paid by the master or owners of the vessel taking him away.

Section 19 — Provides that the pilotage from quarantine to the anchorage opposite San Francisco, and abont the harbor, and for detention outside the Heads, shall he at such rates as shall be agreed upon between the parties.

Section 20 — Provides for the monthly rendition of accounts of moneys received by the pilot to the Board, and for the payment of five percentum on on the amount thereof, which, together with an additional five percentum, which the pilot shall collect from each vessel over and above the rates of pilotage established by law, shall be taken by the Commissioners in full for their official services; if any pilot makes a false return, he shall forfeit his license, or a sum not exceeding $500, at the discretion of the Commissioners.

Section 21 — Provides that pilots shall keep on hband a forty ton boat in good condition, and that no more than six pilots shall be attached to any one boat.

Section 22 — Provides that pilots who shall hereafter be appointed, shall conform to the provisions of this Act.

Section 23 — Provides that the hull and appurtences of all vessels, and the masters, agents, etc., entering or clearing the vessel shall be jointly and severally liable for pilotage fees ; and Justices of tbe Peace in San Francisco shall have jurisdiction to the amouint of $200, beyond that sum District Court, etc.

Section 24 — Provides that if any branch pilot of the harbor of San Francisco offers himself to any vessel outside of a line drawn from Point Bonita to the outward Wolf Rock if inward bound, or outward bound, the pilot bringing the vessel in — or one belonging to the same boat, always to have the preference. Thbe master refusing to take such pilot, he, and the owners, consignee or agents shall be jointly and severally liable for the penalty of tbe amount of pilotage, such boat would pay for the benefit of tbe pilot so offering himself.

Section 25 — Provides for the following rates of pilotage into, or out of, the harbor, and between Mare Island and Benicia:

Mare Island Quad.

Mare Island.

All vessels drawing ten feet and under, $6 per foot draft; all vessels drawing between 10 and 18 feet, $8 per foot draft; all vessels drawing loft, and upwards, $10 per foot draft; all Government vessels, $10 per foot draft; between San Francisco, Benicia and Mare Island, one-half of the above rates.

Section 26 — All vessels arriving or leaving the harbor ot San Francisco, shall be liable for the above rates of pilotage when a pilot is employed, or when a vessel is spoken) the services of a pilot are refused. The pilot first speaking shall be entitled to one-balf the above rates; provided, that all vessels engaged in the coasting trade of this State, Oregon or Washington Territory, not sailing under a coasting license granted at the port of San Francisco, where a pilot is employed shall pay one-half the above rates; or when such vessel is spoken and the services of a pilot refused, the said vessel shall pay to the pilot first offering his services, one-half the amount she would have paid had the services of the pilot been accepted. All vessels engaged in the whaling trade $1 per foot draft, inward or outward bound.

Section 27 — Exempts vessels sailing under a coasting license.

Section 28 — Repeals all existing acts.

Section 29 — Provides that this act shall take effect from and after its passage.

The above bill was duly referred to the Committee on Commerce and Navigation.

September 4, 1866, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Protest Against the Appointment of Steamship Captains as Pilots.

The following is a protest of the licensed pilots of San Francisco against the issuance of licenses to masters of steamships:

To Messrs. N. Pierce, H.S. Brown,and W. T. Thompson, Board of Pilot Examiners, San Francisco:

GENTS: We have been informed that applications have been made to your Honorable Board by certain masters of steamships for license to pilot their vessels into and out of the port and harbor of San Francisco, under the provisions of an act of Congress, said to have been signed by the President on the 14th day of July, 1866.

Carquinez Strait (Benicia)

We, the undersigned pilots, do, in behalf of ourselves and associate pilots of the port and harbor, appointed by your Honorable Board, under an act of the Legislature of the State of California entitled: an act to establish pilots and pilot regulations for the ports of San Francisco, Mare Island and Benicia," approved April 4th, 1864, respectfully protect and object to the appointment, by your Honorable Board, of the said masters, as pilots for their own ships or other ships, into or out of the said port and harbors, or to the granting of any license to the said applicants, or to any others who may apply, under said act of Congress, to pilot their steamships into our out of said harbor.

And as some of our reasons for our protest against, and objections to the said appointments, we respectfully submit the following:

  1. There is not at present any authenticated copy of the said act of Control before your Honorable Board, and there is great doubt as to the form in which some bill upon the subject passed, and was signed by the President. Appointments at this time, therefore, would be premature.
  2. The applications now before the Board are not in due form, for many substantial reasons.
  3. This Honorable Board is appointed under a statute law of the State of California, and each member of the Board is a State officer, and not an officer of the United States, and can only act under the law creating the office held by him, and not under a law of the United States, under which they do not derive their appointment, and especially when such act is in conflict with the State law, as in this case.
  4. The two laws are in conflict, if such be the law, as reported, in this particular: that, under the State law you are authorized to appoint not more than fifteen pilots for this port and harbor, whereas the law of Congress authorizes the appointment of an indefinite number of pilots to pilot steamships, in which they are employed as masters, and also in many other respects.
  5. pilots to the number of fifteen have already been appointed by your Board for this port and harbor, and are now actually exercising their franchises under their respective appointments.
  6. By this act of Congress the State laws relating to the subject of pilotage, as enacted by this State and every other State of the Union, are neither adopted as a whole, nor abrogated as a whole; but are adopted in part, and abrogated and annulled in part, so as to present a confused, contradictory, inconsistent, and inharmonious set of laws, impossible to be executed together, rendering the laws of Congress inoperative.
  7. That if Congress does possess the exclusive and absolute power to regulate the subject of pilotage in the States, under the grant of power by the Federal Constitution to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes, (l3d clause of section H, article 1,) no attempt has been made by Congress to exercise this exclusive power, but the several laws of the States relating to pilotage have been adopted by Congress heretofore, and this law also adopts them with certain exceptions, which are not harmonious with the State law, and which exceptions cannot be enforced by you.
  8. The said act places the said masters, when licensed as pilots, above the State law, by failing to require any of the assurances for public safety which are exacted of us as pilots under the State law, and creates an odious discrimination in favor of the masters of steamships over masters of sailing vessels, while both classes of vessels are engaged in commerce under the same general laws of the United States.
  9. Without enumerating other specific objections to the enforcement of the section of the said act of Congress, authorizing the appointment of pilots, we respectfully submit that the foregoing are sufficient and that you are under no legal obligation to grant said applications, until, at least, you are commanded so to do by a competent and superior judicial authority, and until then, that you are performing your whole duty by adhering to the provisions of the State law.

We are induced to make these objections tor the reasons that our interests are at stake in any attempt to break down the pilotage system of the State; and while we yield implicit obedience to the supreme law of the land, we are not at liberty, in view of those interests and those of the public at large, to submit to the overthrow of the State system until a thorough investigation of the question has been properly made.

San Francisco, August 26, 1866.

In behalf of themselves and all other licensed pilots for the port and harbor under the State Law.

W. E. Domett,
Chas. Mayo.

January 16, 1867, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Pilot-Boat Race Abandoned.

New York, January 15th.— The Commissioners of Pilots have forbidden participation by any pilots of this harbor in the proposed race across the Atlantic between pilot boats. Therefore, the match between the J. D. Jones and Hope No. 1, for $50,000 has been abandoned.

January 22, 1868, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Legislative Proceedings— A New Pilot Law Proposed.

Sacramento, January 21st. Assemblyman Scudder will, tomorrow, introduce a pilot bill in which the Governor is authorised to appoint three citizens of ports of San Francisco, Mare Island and Benicia, pilots; are to be licenses; to give bonds for $2,500; to make monthly returns; pay five percent of their receipts to the Board, which shall be received by them, for services of themselves, Secretary, etc.

Every pilot for San Francisco shall, every ten days, cruise three marine leagues westward of the Heads. The Board may suspend any of 'the pilots and declare their licenses forfeited; they listen to all complaints. Suspended or not duly licensed pilots who shall pilot vessels are liable to imprisonment and a fine of $500. Every pilot carried to sea, involuntarily, shall receive $8 per day while absent. Pilotage inside the Heads to an anchorage opposite San Francisco and about the harbor is not to exceed $7 per foot draft; all vessels and tackle, their Masters and owners shall be liable for pilotage fees, to be recovered in the Courts. When two or more pilots offer their services to vessels outside of Point Bonita, inward bound, the one first offering is to have the preference. A Master refusing to take such pilot is to be liable for one-half of the amount of the pilotage he would claim if his services were accepted. The rates are: all vessels under 503 tons, $6 per foot draft; over 500, $7, and four cents per ton for each and every ton of registered measurement; all vessels in the whaling trade, 11 per foot draft. When a vessel is spoken and pilot's services declined, one-half of aforesaid rates shall be chargeable. All vessels coasting between California, Oregon and Alaska, registered here, and all coasters, are exempted from pilot charges, unless a pilot is actually employed. When any vessel is in tow of a steam-tug, outward bound, or is between the Bay of San Francisco, Benicia and Mare Island, said vessel shall not be liable for a pilotage except a pilot be actually employed. The Board of Commissioners shall appoint and license one or more pilots for the ports of Mare Island and Benicia, subject to the requirements of this act. Examination is confined to the Bay of San Francisco and the ports of Mare Island and Benicia, and intervening tides and rocks. All former acts relative to pilots are repealed.

April 21, 1896, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Masters and Pilots.

Golden Gate Harbor No. 40, American Association of Masters and Pilots, held its regular meeting in Fraternal Hall, Alcazar building, last evening. The district deputy installed the following officers: W. T. Forsman, captain; Charles Gustafson, first pilot; W. C. Tyler, second pilot; P. X. Stolen, captain's clerk; J. Richardson, purser's clerk; Charles Johnson, chaplain.

The harbor will meet regularly on the second Saturday of each month.

January 26, 1900, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

America's Marine Needs

Washington, Jan. 25.—The National Association of Masters and Pilots of Steam Vessels has adopted resolutions favoring the construction of the Nicaraguan canal by the government; legislation prohibiting the towing of rafts on the Pacific coast because of the great danger to navigation In the event of their breaking up; opposing the granting of pilots' licenses under federal government supervision, and endorsing the bill now before congress to abolish the smoke nuisance In New York harbor.

September 3, 1903, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Pilots Dedicate Snug Harbor

The bar pilots of this port have fitted up a den at 506 Battery Street. It will be used as a harbor of rest for those pilots who get into port too late at night to go to their homes and for those whose duties take them to sea very early in the morning. It will be also a private club room where the pilots may retire in seclusion during the heat of the day. "Snug Harbor" it was christened yesterday when friends of the members of the little club met in the new quarters and enjoyed the hospitality of the members. All but five of the pilots are interested in Snug Harbor.

September 28, 1850, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

Election for San Francisco Harbor Master September 28 1850 from the Daily Alta California.


Daily Alta California, September 19, 1854, San Francisco

San Francisco Port Charges - The Whaling Trade

Considerable conversation was indulged in last evening, at the Merchants' Exchange, in relation to the port charges of San Francisco. From a statement made by a merchant engaged in the shipping business, it does not appear that the charges are onerous. The only charges American vessels are subject to (other than entering and clearing) are the pilotage and Harbor Master's fees. The charges for pilotage are: for vessels under 1800 tons, eight dollars per foot; and over that tonnage, ten dollars per foot. If a vessel is brought in by the master, half pilotage is charged. The Harbor Master fees are four cents per ton, which is forty dollars on a thousand ton ship. Add to this the pilotage say twelve feet at eight dollars per foot, is ninety-six dollars, or a total of one hundred and thirty-six dollars on a vessel of a thousand tons. The most onerous tax is the wharfage, which would not effect vessels engaged in the whaling trade, as they would most probably discharge their cargoes in the stream from the ship's side, providing It was intended for shipment to the East. Smooth water can be found in the harbor for vessels to lay side by side to take cargo from one to the other.

Whaling Scene. 1800s

That San Francisco is the most desirable spot on the Pacific American coast for whalers to refit, repair, &c, is unquestionable; and now that seamen are plenty, and the same inducements for desertion which existed some years since have to a great extent ceased, there is apparently no good reason that we should not have the benefit of their presence.

December 22, 1903, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Harbor Election.

Golden Gate Harbor No. 40 of the American Association of Masters and Pilots of Steam Vessels has elected the following named as officers for the ensuing term: P. N. Stofen, captain; J. T. Jones, captain's clerk; J. Fetzenger, first, and, W. H. Higginson, second pilot; J. T. Jones, grand representative to Washington; J. P. Carson and W.S. Joy, alternates; William Elsasser, Oscar Anderson and J. A. Carson, trustees.

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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