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A Pilots Course Knot by knot, rung by rung, Captain Elizabeth A. Christman pulled herself up the Jacob's (rope) ladder which hung on the side of a giant sea-going merchant ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Every pull, every foothold symbolized each step of her long journey to becoming one of the most elite sea captains in the world.

At this time, Captain Christman was working as an apprentice in hopes of becoming a Maryland-licensed Bay pilot. After a 13-year journey to reach her career goal, she had five more difficult years of training between her and that goal—to be a ship’s pilot qualified to command the largest vessels calling at any Maryland port. She had cleared the highest hurdle of her quest just months before when she was selected to begin an apprenticeship as a State-licensed Bay Pilot. Captain Christman had been one of six applicants chosen for training by the State Board of Pilots from a field of nearly 150 experienced ship officers.

The arduous training was required before she would become fully licensed by the State Board of Pilots. Captain Christman, like all pilots, was required by the State of Maryland to finish a rigorous five-year apprenticeship program. She would make hundreds of transits up the Chesapeake Bay from the C & D Canal at Chesapeake City, Maryland, through the Port of Baltimore to Cape Henry, Virginia. Her classroom work included training on state-of-the-art simulators as well as academic study for professional certifications needed for Federal and State licensure.

Cape Henry Light House

She would have to draw, from memory and in great detail, 10 nautical charts of the Bay. Her practical skill development would be supervised by State-licensed pilots who would critique her every decision, day in and day out.

It was a process for which she had long prepared. Captain Christman grew up in Norwich, New York. As a child, she fell in love with the ocean during her family vacations to the shore. When it was time to choose a college, the call of the sea made her choice easier.

Cape Henry Lighthouse, VA
Captain Christman 
Captain Christman northbound to the C&D Canal
She selected New York Maritime College at the State University of New York in Fort Schuyler. She graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Transportation, a U.S. Coast Guard Unlimited Tonnage Third Mate License, and a commission as an Ensign in the Naval Reserve.

Upon graduation, she successfully competed in the male-dominated profession by working on merchant ships from 1987 to 1996. During that time, she sailed on tugboats, tankers, passenger ships, and training vessels, earning respect and experience as her career progressed. She quickly rose through the ranks and was the first in her graduating class to become fully licensed as an Unlimited Tonnage Master sailing all oceans. In 1995, while working as Chief Mate of New York Maritime's training vessel, the T/S EMPIRE STATE, Captain Christman completed her post-graduate studies earning a Masters of Science degree in Transportation Management.

In February 2001, 18 years after she began her seafaring career, Captain Christman reached her goal as she finished her five-year training program and became fully licensed by the Maryland Board of Pilots. That license allows her to pilot any vessel of any size and any draft on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Fewer than 70 ship captains worldwide hold this license. Captain Elizabeth A. Christman stands among them! Apprenticeship Standards The selection process is State controlled and extremely competitive. Prior to being accepted by the State, most recent applicants have had highly successful academic and professional sea-going careers. The typical applicant accepted for training has graduated from a maritime university, sailed for 10-15 years, holds a Master or Chief Officer License for vessels of any Gross Tons upon Oceans and may have a post-graduate degree.
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