Escravos Pilot!

Ant P
13th April 2010, 12:27
Following on from the 'Up the Creek' thread, can anybody remember what the name of the family of locals that used to come out in their canoes to pilot the vessels in and out to Warri, Sapele Koko etc. If I remember rightly each shipping company going up the creeks used a different 'family' of pilots. The Dad and lad came out in the canoe with the Mum to paddle it back. The only payment I saw was to fill the canoe with provisions on the way out. I seem to remember the lad did the steering as the makee learnee pilot and they lived in the wheelhouse the whole time. I have a feeling that there name was Dixon, but I could be way off the mark there.
Tony Porter

14th April 2010, 04:05
There were quite a few vying for the job but one I recall is Samual Gular.

John T.

14th April 2010, 05:19
I remember being appalled to see what looked like a 12 year old boy at the wheel wearing a RN officers cap. His dad was standing behind him giving advice.

Peter Martin
16th April 2010, 20:05
I remember being appalled to see what looked like a 12 year old boy at the wheel wearing a RN officers cap. His dad was standing behind him giving advice.

I'm quite sure that Dixon was the family name of the pilot we used. I don't recall the canoe going back paddled by mum - as far as I recall it was hoisted aboard and put on top of one of the aft hatches.

The boy did, indeed, take the wheel and dad stood in front using hand gestures to indicate the helm orders.

Nights were spent at Youngtown Crossing where an 'eyefull' could be acquired for a bar of Aesepso soap.

17th April 2010, 11:10
If I remember correctly each Master of an E.D. ship that I sailed on had his own 'choice' Creek Pilot. You had to watch for the canoe with the correct 'international code flags' and the others were chased away. The pilot and retinue comprising usually of his helmsman and at least two 'small boys' who appeared to be trainees. They cleaned the bridge where they all lived during the stay aboard which could be up to six weeks in the rainy season. They got food etc. from the Kroo Galley when in port. The canoe was lifted aboard by derrick

I seem to remember one pilot family at Escravos was called Tom or Toms. They were not bad at 'conning' the ships in the open water of the Creeks. There was a tendency to go too fast especially when passing rafts of logs. The passing was usually marked by much jabbering and gesticulations. Happy memories of the lilies that dipped under water with the pressure wave ahead of the ship and of putting the bow in at The Fork on two occasions.

17th April 2010, 11:31
Thanks for the name Youngstown Crossing, Peter - I couldn't remember it. "Flash for a dash" land.

Samuel Gular had his nephew with him - a youth of about 15 who wore a battered trilby with a card stuck in the band announcing: "I am Richard Gular the ED pilot". He was continuously pestering everyone for beer and fags so one day I suggested I made a new card for his hat. He spent the rest of his time on board sporting a card saying: "I am Richard Gular the ED bumming bastard".

John T.

4th December 2010, 15:56
I was on DALLA in 1970 on the USA-west africa run. only went up to warri one time, but i remember that the pilots were captain's choice, capt. Leathart used "king". so we crossed the escravos bar with the bosun (billy eastwood i think) taking soundings while we blew "K" on the whistle. inside the river king's canoe came out so we picked him, helmsman sons and the canoe up for the trip up to warri. i was sparky, we sent out warnings on 500 so other ships would know where we were in the mangroves.


father john
30th December 2010, 22:46
Yes I remember it all as described, in Palm Line we often used Blacky Komi and his family who were generally quite good, but needed to be watched closely. As mentioned radio watch was maintained to keep track of other ships that were nearby and traversing the creeks/Rivers. I seem to remember that we entered and exited across the Escravos Bar at about 16' 6'' then up river turned to port into Chanomi Creek and then later to starboard into the Forcados River which would lead up to Sapele which was about ninety miles inland.

31st December 2010, 00:15
I seem to remember a pilot family called Kalaroo.


1st March 2011, 18:55
Spud Murphy always favoured the Gulars.

Allan Pugh
17th February 2012, 15:07
As mentioned in an earlier reply Spud Murphy always used Emmanuel or Isaac Gula. I can also remember Captain Munro using Minto Kalaroo and Josiah King

Robert Hilton
17th February 2012, 15:18
I did one trip as 3rd mate on the brand new Sakumo Lagoon (Black star of Ghana) when Kwame Nkrumah was president. The creek pilot was Sindi Gula (or Gular) Possibly father of the one mentioned above?

Allan Pugh
17th February 2012, 23:03
I remember Emmanuel Gula was known as "Chief" Gula so possibly he was patriach of the tribe?

greg mellor
16th December 2013, 06:20
The Escravos pilotage was a unique situation which you would never encounter anywhere else in the world.
I was on the Filliegh on charter to Elder Dempster and the pilot we used was Wilson Gulah so I gues it was probably a family operation.
He used to bring his crew boys and his wife who was considerably younger than him.
Good pilot, never had a problem and a gentleman.

Ex StevieClarkes
17th December 2013, 10:52
I used Wilson Gula, very good until we hit fog on the Melampus one morning and I realised 'the boy' had no idea how to steer by compass. Luckily we were in the Escravos river and I had room to anchor.