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NWS Charleston, SC - Charleston Harbor Pilot Boats
Charleston Harbor Pilot Boats

The Harbor Pilot is responsible for assuring the safe navigation of cargo ships into and out of the Charleston Harbor. Since the operators of these huge vessels originate from around the world, knowledge of the port is needed by the Harbor Pilot when navigating inside the harbor waters. It is the duty of the Harbor Pilot to use his/her knowledge of the area so that safe maritime travel can be conducted and so that marine accidents with structures and other vessels can be avoided.

Marine pilotage has existed since the late 18th century, with citizen mariners providing the local navigational expertise needed to assure safe vessel movement in America's port cities. The Charleston Harbor Pilot leaves port and heads offshore to a buoy located about 15 miles southeast of the harbor entrance (Buoy Charlie) where ships enter the Pilot's waters.

The National Weather Service in Charleston receives information regarding the wind direction and speed, as well as the sea conditions when the Pilot boat is near or at the buoy. This provides the marine forecaster an observation for the coastal waters several miles offshore. This information is very helpful since observing platforms on the ocean surface are sparsely located, expensive, and difficult to maintain. The Harbor Pilot's report often indicates conditions that are less in magnitude than the buoys farther offshore, but greater than the wind observations on area beaches. It all depends on the wind direction and the duration of wind over the water. See the Marine Terms page for more information on fetch and generating area.

Information provided by Capt. Robert F. Bennett
Charleston Navigation Company


National Weather Service
Charleston Weather Forecast Office
5777 South Aviation Avenue
Charleston, S.C. 29406-6162
(843) 744-0303

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Page last modified: 05/01/2010 10:03 PM
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