In the early days of piloting in Nassau Harbour
there were three pilots: Capt. Harry Knowles,
Capt. Willard Brown and Willard's cousin Capt.
Capt. Harry Knowles is the father of World Class
sailor Sir Durward "Sea Wolf" Knowles who won
the Gold Medal for The Bahamas at the 1964
Olympic Games in Tokyo.
No system was in place to determine which
pilot would bring in a particular ship, which
meant the first to come alongside an incoming
vessel was the one who got the job. The entire
piloting fee was paid to that pilot, which created
Each pilot had a crew of three or four, and one
crew member constantly looked for incoming
ships. Once a ship was spotted, the captain
was alerted and the race was on!
Capt. Harry's pilot boat was the Alexandra, a
forty-foot double ender with a center board. She
was fairly fast; an important requirement for the
many races out of Nassau Harbour to capture
the trophy of a piloting job.
The early sighting of an incoming vessel was
very important. Located high on a hill
overlooking the harbour at the top of Mosely lane
was a large Tamarind tree which the pilots
called the "Fig Tree".
Perched high in this tree, one could see beyond
the harbour over hog island where incoming
vessels would approach Nassau. When a ship
was sighted, the race began. The winner would
collect a handsome fee and the looser would be
forced to wait for the next vessel, sometimes
staying outside of the harbour to insure the next
There were times when one of the pilots spotted
a ship that went undetected by the others. This
unique situation required the utmost skill. The
pilot and crew were charged with getting to their
pilot boat and sailing out of the harbour without
tipping off the others.
From the book "Driven by the Stars".
Capt. Harry Knowles boarding ship.