OYSTERVILLE — Capt. Dan Jordan has been a Columbia River bar pilot for 13 years. He will be at the Oysterville Schoolhouse on Thursday, Nov. 2, at 10 a.m. to for a free public talk about his job: its present-day requirements and its colorful history, followed by questions and answers.
“This is my second career,” Jordan said. After graduating from the California Maritime Academy in the San Francisco Bay Area, he went to work for the United States Merchant Marines. “My very first job as a mariner was for the Army Corps of Engineers, working on a dredge on the Columbia River Bar,” he said. “You might say I know the bar from bottom to top.”
Like the other 15 Columbia River bar pilots, Jordan’s maritime experience has been extensive. “After that dredging job, I continued working on various merchant vessels for the next 24 years,” he said.
Typically, applicants for Columbia River Bar Pilot positions have been at sea for 15 to 25 years, including a minimum of two years as a master on ships of at least 5,000 gross tons. Because of the extreme weather conditions characteristic of winter bar crossings, their licensing standard is one of the highest in the United States.
Columbia River Bar Pilots guide about 3,600 vessel crossings of the bar each year — from 100-foot tugs to 1,100-foot tankers, bulk carriers, car carriers, log ships, general cargo ships, container ships, and passenger ships. Once aboard, the pilot assumes navigational conduct of the vessel using his or her experience and local knowledge to safely navigate the restricted channels of the Columbia River and over the bar to and from sea.