Final Patrol on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal

November 19, 1968, was a sunny, cold day on the Chesapeake and Delaware and the Pilot, a canal patrol boat, was on its last official run. Months earlier, the Corps of Engineers had decided her work was done so she was making this final journey from the Town Point Station to the Chesapeake City Dock.

Protestors attempted to save the Pilot, but closed circuit TVs, radar, and advances in radio communications had replaced the work, the government said. So after completing the final patrol on November 15, the crew tied her to the wharf at midnight to await this day, the removal to Chesapeake City.

On that sentimental Tuesday, the men who had patrolled the waterway chatted about the 27-year old craft’s history, noting how she plied the waters on safety patrols, met incoming ships, checked traffic conditions, enforced safety regulations, and made rescues, the Cecil Whig reported. There had been three boats, but after this mid-autumn day only Reedy Point, Delaware remained. Her days were numbered too.

The patrols started after the Corps of Engineers modernized the canal in 1927, removing locks and rickety wooden drawbridges. The Eleanor S., the Joy, the Dragon, and the Escort I were some of the earlier vessels that churned the waters for the Corps of Engineers, keeping a watchful eye on activities.

As the pilot approached the Chesapeake City Bridge, the engine was slowed down, and soon she pulled beside her retired sister craft, the Convoy, which was “already collecting cobwebs as she rocked softly at dockside.” This is how the Pilot would spend her last days, the Whig noted.

The Patrol boat, Pilot, on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.  Source:  Cecil Whig, November 20, 1968

The Patrol boat, Pilot, on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Source: Cecil Whig, November 20, 1968

The Pilot leaves Town Point

The Pilot leaves Town Point. Source: Cecil Whig, November 20, 1968

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