Since the inception of the Columbia River Bar Pilots in 1846, the State of Oregon has required each pilot to hold an unlimited tonnage Master Mariner’s license. Today this must include having sailed as master at least two years on ships of at least 5,000 gross tons. This is one of the highest licensing standards in the United States, and is warranted by the extreme weather typical of winter crossings. Applicants will have been at sea for 15 to 25 years to satisfy this requirement.
To obtain a federal pilotage endorsement on the master license, the applicant must draw the Columbia River entrance chart by memory, as well as write out the light list and pass several other tests proving his or her knowledge of the bar. After acceptance into the group, the pilot trainee must complete a minimum of 100 crossings in the presence of a licensed pilot, and must perform the piloting independently on many of these crossings.