When you're fishing on one of the Fort De Soto fishing piers, watch the ship traffic that constantly passes in front of you. Of course, keep an eye on your fishing line and lure too!

Every time a cruise ship, or cargo ship, or any foreign-flagged vessel goes in or out of Tampa Bay, every move is guided by a harbor pilot. The fees for the pilot's guidance varies according to vessel size and tonnage, but it can go over a couple of thousand dollars! To all appearances, Tampa Bay looks like vast areas of open water, so what do they need a pilot for? In fact, the bay is mostly very shallow, so they need to carefully stay in the shipping channels. Some of these ships take a mile to come to a complete stop, so it's not a trivial task to guide a ship with 40,000 tons of cargo safely to its mooring in one of the nation's busiest harbors.

The pilot boat heads out

The bay pier is used by the pilot boat that ferries pilots to and from the ships that enter and leave Tampa Bay. Here we see the pilot boat (far right) heading out to intercept a large freighter and bring back a pilot who has guided the ship out of Tampa Bay. The freighter is entering the channel between Mullet Key and Egmont Key. Fort De Soto was originally built to exercise control over this channel.

The Pilot Boat

The pilot boat.

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