It’s one day after a full moon. The sea sparkles as a harbor pilot boat from Port Tampa Bay takes a 45-minute ride into the Gulf of Mexico at 3 a.m.
The pilot works an immensely important job, guiding huge ships under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, up Tampa Bay, past Davis Islands, and through Seddon Channel -- this day in the dark with only the moon to light the way while most of Tampa sleeps.
It's a job that Pilot Carolyn Kurtz works with grace and a demeanor that perhaps only a woman can, a guardian of international ships coming into Tampa’s downtown.
Kurtz is the first and only female harbor pilot working in Tampa waters; she's an expert at navigating the massive loads of cargo past other marine traffic, lighthouses, tiny islands, and sea creatures -- all dependent on the tide and the weather.
On this clear night in June with an 83 Degrees Media journalist tagging along, the harbor pilot boat pulls right up alongside an 857-foot Chinese shipping container, longer than Tampa’s tallest building by almost 300 feet.
Read more about Carolyn Kurtz, Florida’s first female harbor pilot at 83 Degrees Media.