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Piloting the tides

Going out to sea to help a ship come in to port. A serendipitous encounter while walking the tidal coves of Eastport.

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It was 8:08 a.m. and Captain Bob Peacock and four other men were untying Zeporah, a pilot boat, at the dock in Deep Cove, on the back side of the island. The men were there precisely at that time because it was four hours before 12:08 p.m., the ideal target time at which Peacock, who has piloted more than a thousand ships into Eastport, hoped to maneuver Star Lima, a 670-foot-long ship flying the Norwegian flag, alongside the port. The ship would pick up thousands of pounds of wood pulp and sail the next day for Savona, Italy. // I didn't know any of this at 8:08 a.m. when I happened out to Deep Cove to look at the sea and saw the crew climbing aboard Zeporah. I had been in touch with Peacock before arriving in town and when I walked down the steps to the dock and introduced myself, he said, "want to go for a ride?" // Soon we were motoring around the south end of Eastport toward Campobello Island. James Smith, at the wheel, picked up the radio: "Fundy Traffic. This is Eastport pilot boat. We are entering Canadian waters." Peacock, who would be climbing aboard the Star Lima with two cadets, sat behind Smith. He looked at the ebb tide rushing past Windmill Point. It travels 4 knots per hour in one direction and then, just past the point, 3 kph in the other. That morning, as the tide rushed out to sea, the water level around Eastport would drop more than 18 feet. "We plan everything by the tides," Peacock told me. Smith steered Zeporah past East Quoddy Lighthouse and into the open water of the Bay of Fundy. A mile or two away, Star Lima was steaming at 12 knots per hour toward the rendez-vous point. Peacock grabbed the radio and told the Star Lima captain to hold his course. "We are dead ahead of you," Peacock said. Star Lima slowed to 8.5 knots and Smith swung Zeporah around to come parallel to the ship. The current coming off the hull of Star Lima danced on the surface and deep below. Smith worked the throttles as Peacock and the cadets went to the starboard side, where they would climb onto the Jacob's Ladder hanging down Star Lima's hull. "When I first started doing this," Smith said, "my knees would shake." #maine #tides #travel #journalism #fuelwalk

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