Bar Pilots

By Alice Winship

The River Pilots guide ships out
Every twist and turn the river makes
From Portland docks to the river’s mouth
But the Bar Pilots go where the big waves break
The bottom is shallow, the waves grow steep
The pilot advises where to steer
The channel is narrow, the spits like teeth
It’s the Graveyard of the Pacific here.

Chorus: The pilots know Columbia’s Bar
            That’s where the dangers are
            The ships go out and the ships come in
            Through the crashing waves and wind

A call comes from a ship in-bound
They board the ships far out at sea
A helicopter lowers them down
To a ship that rolls on the heaving sea
Winter is the deadly time
For the pilot boat on the storm tossed sea
To a Jacob’s ladder they jump, then climb
If they miss they will fall in the raging sea

Bridge: The ships are huge and filled with freight
            But time is money and the tide won’t wait
            They’ll try to push them through
            They’ll keep it open if they can
            But they won’t risk a ship upon the sand
            They’re good at what they do.

A freighter headed outward bound
But the wind changed fast, the swells rolled high
The pilot ordered “Turn around
We’ll have to go back til the storm goes by
Push on through, this ship can’t quit
Said the captain from the Philippines
The pilot said ‘There’s Peacock Spit
Do you know what the word graveyard means?’


In the narrow channel the ship turned round
With skill she escaped being stuck sideways
She anchored safe at Astoria’s ground
The ship was saved from a wreck that day



  • Written by: Alice Winship
  • Arranged by: Alex Sturbaum
    • Tania Opland: lead vocal, guitar
    • Alex Sturbaum: electric guitar
    • Alicia Healy: bass, vocals
    • Julie Bennett: drums