Yesterday was wonderful. I woke up at 4 in the morning and my brother took me to Vallejo where I caught the ferry into the city. I made my way to Pier 9 and met up with a close friend (who also happens to be a pilot) who took me with him on two ship jobs. The first job was a tanker out of Selby, with an escort to sea. As we rounded Angel Island in Southampton channel and approached the deepwater ship channel outbound, he handed the conn over to me! I was surprised for a minute and my heart began to race, but once I knew what I had to do next, I started issuing orders to the helmsman and steering the ship. It was SO awesome.
Of course I was given plenty of instruction and guidance; my friend showed me what to look for on the radar and on the AIS, as well as how to recognize what was going on when I looked out the window (i.e. lining up natural ranges, when to start a turn once I’m abeam of this or that, which areas to absolutely avoid, etc.).
We got off the ship at the pilot station and had some food. The cook wasn’t up and about so I just had soup and bread which was enough. About an hour later we boarded a container ship headed into Oakland 25. Again my friend put me in charge of giving helm commands as soon as we got to the bridge. It was strikingly similar to the training I received during the last couple months of school and put to use in the simulator last week, only this was the real deal. I had so much fun. I brought the ship as far as the Bay Bridge but then the boss took over because at that point things start to get more complicated. I took pictures and spent a lot of time looking down at the tug on our port quarter while he docked the ship. When we were all fast we disembarked and walked down the dock a ways to wait for the pilot boat to pick us up; we had a good half hour to ourselves then to just talk and catch up on the last 6 months of life. I’d been looking forward to that get-together for quite some time.