Embarking and disembarking of Columbia River Bar Pilots is accomplished by helicopter or boat.
The primary method of pilot boarding is by helicopter. The Columbia River Bar Pilots also keep one of two pilot boats on standby at all times.
Vessels should not approach closer than 5 miles west of the CR Buoy until advised by a pilot. Pilots boarding by helicopter will generally board within four to 10 miles northwest to southwest of the CR Buoy (Columbia River Entrance Buoy). Boarding by pilot boat generally takes place in the vicinity of the CR buoy.