By KIM MAIALETTI
Curt Chamberlain laughs when friends ask him for help docking their 45-foot pleasure-cruising boats.
"I can't dock those little things," Chamberlain, 56, said Sunday. "I have to have something big."
Something like the battleship USS New Jersey.
Chamberlain served as the battleship's docking pilot Sunday morning, steering it up the Delaware River and easing it against the pier by issuing directions over walkie-talkies to tugboats hundreds of feet below his perch on the upper part of the ship's bridge.
From there, Chamberlain can see the stern, the bow and the water surrounding the ship.
He is a fifth-generation maritime operator. His father was a docking pilot on the Delaware. His grandfather towed barges and his great-grandfather and great-great- grandfather worked as schooner captains.
"I was 4 years old working on tugs," Chamberlain said. "It' s in your blood. It's really in your blood."
Chamberlain, who works for McAllister Towing in Camden, is one of 15 docking pilots that operate on the Delaware.
He routinely handles 1,100-foot tankers and ships with twice the battleship's tonnage.
"I like moving things that are so large," Chamberlain said. "It's a natural high when you're done. It would put some fear in the average person."
Even though the USS New Jersey, at 887 feet long and 45,000 tons, may seem small by comparison, Chamberlain enjoyed moving it.
"To me, it's a real thrill, a real honor to move a ship like the New Jersey," Chamberlain said. "We don't get to move warships in our everyday line of work."
Email this story to a friend