The use of small pilot schooners in the late 1700's led to the development of the
Harbingers of Hope
The first English passengers voyaging to the Southern Colonies found their first relief not in the sighting of land, but in the sight of a ship's mast-the mast of a Maryland pilot's schooner. Those passengers--adventurers, debtors, those seeking religious freedoms--heard the New World first in the call of an Eastern Shore pilot offering to guide the heavily laden English ships through the shoals and into safe harbor on the Chesapeake Bay. To the passengers this call meant the voyage was finally ending, and a new life of unlimited opportunities was beginning. To the crew, it meant a bit of rest in the ports of St. Mary's County and Annapolis. To the Captain, the call meant relief from the fear of running aground and the unpredictability of the Bay.
While this harbinger of land was new to the passengers, it had become familiar to the veterans of the Atlantic passage. Always when approaching the Bay they were on the lookout for the pilot schooner. Maryland pilots had been serving England's huge merchant fleet for nearly a century by the mid 1700s. Colonial records mention the Pilots providing safe, reliable and efficient service as early as 1640. In fact, piloting was one of the first professions practiced in the colonies.
The Royal Government was never able to tax or license the profession, which explains why laws governing the pilots were among the items discussed and enacted by Maryland’s first General Assembly in 1787. Those acts mark the beginning of the accountability of all pilots to the citizens of Maryland as opposed to a foreign king in the 1700s or a foreign shipping company today. The Maryland General Assembly, as recently as April 2000, continued the service and guardian role of Maryland pilots by enacting laws regulating commercial vessels.
The General Assembly created the State Board of Docking Pilots and at the same time recognized the Association of Maryland Docking Pilots. The Association of Maryland Pilots was formed in 1852 and was the first State legislated association of pilots in the United States. On January 1 2005, Maryland passed legislation that allowed for the merging of the Docking Pilots' and Bay Pilots' associations into a single association of Maryland Pilots.
Growth and Development
Over the next century and a half, Maryland Pilots have purchased many pilot station cutters and twice sent them to assist in our war efforts during the 20th century. In addition, the Association, with their headquarters in Baltimore, maintains pilot stations and other points of presence in Maryland at Piney Point, Solomons Island, Annapolis, Chesapeake City, and, in Virginia at Cape Henry. The Solomons location serves not only as a Pilot Transfer Station but also as the Association’s major repair and maintenance facility for the many pilot launches needed to properly serve the Association’s operational requirements.
Nationally and locally, within the maritime arena, the Maryland State Pilots represent the interest of Maryland, often filling a leadership role on many committees dealing with navigation safety, channel design, dredging, and port security at the federal, state, and local levels.
Today, the Association of Maryland Pilots is a thriving organization that includes 65 active Pilots, 40 retired pilots and widows, and 50 employees, all doing their share to make life on the Chesapeake Bay safe and productive!