Docking Gurus blog will keep you abreast of all the new cool ship and barge handling tips, including videos on my site, I will also post important safety info for San Juan Bay shipping. Thanks for your interest. Enjoy...

Aug 02, 2012

Docking Gurus Photo Bin

Pictures of interesting aspects of my job

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May 23, 2012

Great to be back!

Greetings my loyal marine bloggers. Much has happen in this last year. Trailer Bridge filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and then came back with a vengeance. She was bought by the private company Seacor and is now one of the best financed big four Jones traders in PR. The future spells mayor changes in power for the four Companies trading on the Jones route to PR (Trailer Bridge, Crowley, Sea star and Horizon). It’s very interesting to see the balance of cargo being transported by barge or ship, roro or lolo. I think the industry will always have a need for both, ship for quick 2 or 3 day transport, or 6 to 7 barge traffic. Fuel costs and talk of eliminating the Jones Act will always create huge fluctuations in the profit margins of any marine transporter. Speaking of Jones Act, it’s time for the politicians to spread the fear before elections. This time it’s the Jones. My humble opinion on this very critical topic is; Jones Act elimination, in the short term would disrupt a huge sector of mariners and companies who depend on it. In the long term it would not make anything cheaper on the island because whatever reflagged company to move in would not pass the savings to the consumer, they would just increase their profit margins. I think it’s a mute battle because the Airlines have very powerful lobbyist in Washington making sure the Jones is not touched in PR. Just imagine flying Beef Stroganoff Airlines to Florida and back. I think the US air transporters are just as concerned as the marine ones. God Bless and Be Safe.

Jul 13, 2011

Docking Gurus, Caribbean Docking Masters & Pilots Inc.

Docking Gurus are professional mariners who dock ships and barges with a passion.

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Jun 21, 2011

The Big Barge Scramble, New ramp Jitters

The maritime industry of all San Juan was concerned with the fact that the Trailer Bridge San JUan Jacksonville type super barge could not be safely docked at new ramp position. Well, I am happy to inform that Caribbean Docking Masters has docked this barge several times at this berth with a tanker berthed at COD west. The maneuver is tight and surgical, but manageable. We have proved once again that we have the expertise needed for world class barge docking. I would like to thank our sponsors and well wishers.Caribbean Docking Masters & Pilots providing Marine Solutions.

Mar 20, 2011

Congratulations Trailer Bridge

Friday I8th of March was the inauguration of the new 6 million dollar ramp built for Trailer Bridge San Juan. Caribbean Docking Masters & Pilots was mentioned and applauded for our involvement in planning a safe maneuver in and out of the ramp. I want to thank Mr. Ed Morley for this mention and public display of appreciation. I was very moved by his action. As of last Friday I have docked the big barge three time in the new ramp position. Although a little tight, and requiring all my skills, its just the challenge l live for. To put the largest barge in the world in the tightest slip in the world. Congratulation to Trailer Bridge and let the games begin.

Jan 30, 2011


How a harbor pilot gets off a ship at sea.


Jan 27, 2011

The Last Hawspiper

Maritime jobs are becoming scarce. However, one of the rarest jobs to land in today’s dwindling economy is that of a Harbor Pilot. As senior pilot for San Juan Bay Pilots, I may very well be one of the last harbor pilots to come in as a hawspiper, working my way up the ranks license by license, ton by ton. We just qualified 3 deputy pilots who all came from the Academy, and worked in the field obtaining a masters unlimited license. They are all very good and talented mariners who represent the core of the candidates, pilot associations are looking for. Some pilot associations still select one candidate from the Academy route and one from the 1600 ton master route. In this last selection process by the San Juan Pilot Commission, the 1600 ton master hawspiper was not even interviewed, thus showing a clear disregard for experience gained by such a candidate who came up the haws pipe to become a Master Mariner. I think this is a huge mistake many associations are committing. 1600 tonners usually come from tug boat experience and could possibly understand the dynamics of ship handling a little better than someone who hasn’t. I have come across many unlimited masters of ships who have never handled their own ship, because the docking pilots and harbor pilots do it for them. Tug captains on assist tugs are right in the action during a ship docking. They feel and can absorb every reaction the ship makes from the orders given. My theory for this trend of Academy candidates being more sought after than hawspipers is that the people in charge of appointing, are themselves Academy graduates and don’t understand the value of a hawspiper. So if you are interested in becoming a Harbor Pilot someday, please be very patient and educate yourself in one of the fine maritime Academies, than get your Masters unlimited before applying to any Pilot associations. It’s tough to get in, but it’s worth it. I consider it the pinnacle of the industry, you get to play with the ships and go home to your family at the end of the day. WhooooHoooo.Thanks for your visit!

Jan 14, 2011

Another Epic Day!

Yesterday was another epic day for Caribbean Docking Masters & Pilots Inc.; we handled three barges in three different countries at the same time. I had to use all of my docking gurus to keep my clients happy. We thank Crowley and Trailer Bridge for their trust and support. Happy Sailing…

Jan 03, 2011

Happy New Years!!!

I wish everyone good health in the new year.May all your wishes come true.

Jan 03, 2011

New Videos on Photo & Vid Gallery

Enjoy new videos on my Photo & Vid Gallery.

Oct 25, 2010

New photos

Enjoy new photos posted in the photo gallery.

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Oct 10, 2010

A Fellow Pilot

On Sun Oct 10 12:24:33 2010, the following results were submitted from the "Form 1" on

------------------------------First Name: Chief Pilot Nigel Herbert

COMMENTS: I am the Chief Pilot of the St Kitts Port Authority.We are 3 Pilots Do you have any tips in How we can the show the Authority that Pilots are not the ordinary 8-4 professionals? How to we get the Authority to give us pilots the recognition that we deserve. Need some urgent tips.We are a member of the IMPA. ------------------------------

My Dear Nigel;

Not only the port Authority, but the shipping agents think we are all over paid ego maniacs. Don’t despair; this is the case for most pilot associations. I image you also have some ethnocentric attitudes mixed in the batch of none believers. Well let me tell you that the answer to your question is the million dollar one. My problem is that I make my job look easy, thus the lay person doesn’t see the value of my work. One way to make someone value the work you do is to take that person out on the pilot boat on a rough day and have them go up that rope ladder and see what fun that is on a dark rainy night. Then take them to the bridge and demonstrate all the parameters you must juggle to safely maneuver that vessel to the dock. I did this once, and the port agent was puking before I got to the sea buoy. Another thing you can do to remind them of the importance of shipping on a small island, is to quote groundings and accidents from your neighboring islands and ask them how long can they last with the port closed due to grounding. No matter what we do, we will always be the overpaid valet parking guy who they must use. Just enjoy your craft and hope your port authority will realize the value of your very skilled labor. Good Luck;Capt. George

Sep 07, 2010

Today is my Birthday!

I’m 49 and feeling like a bull on the streets of Pamplona during the running of the bulls looking for someone to impale. Our company hit a milestone just the other night when my colleague Alex and I maneuvered two of the largest barges in the world simultaneously. “Jax-San Juan Bridge” and the “La Fortaleza” were being maneuvered and cared for by Caribbean Docking Masters & Pilots at the same time. Alex and I have been talking about this opportunity for at least two years. On another note, my brother Marco is recuperating nicely from a very serious illness. Suffice it to say that this is the best birthday a man could have. Thank you very much!

Aug 28, 2010

Thank You Crowley

Caribbean Docking Masters & Pilots Inc. has been asked to handle all barge dockings for San Juan due to an unexpected illness that has affected our friend Capt. Hector Guzman. We hope Hector gets better soon. I wish to thank the Crowley Corporation for the trust they have bestowed on us to handle all Docking Master work for the Caribbean area. Till Capt. Guzman returns, we will carry the torch with pride and gratitude.Capt. George MaffioliCDM&P Inc.

Aug 12, 2010

New Photo Gallery

Now the Dockingurus have a new photo gallery. All pix come with descriptions and comments, I will continue to post as much pix as I can to keep the vibe going. Enjoy….

Aug 12, 2010

New Look and Feel for Docking Gurus Web Page

Enjoy the new look just to keep things fresh and cool..

Jun 25, 2010


The Williamson turn is a maneuver used to bring a ship or boat under power back to a point it previously passed through, often for the purpose of recovering a man overboard. It was named for John Williamson USNR, who used it in 1943. Well, I invented and perfected the Maffioli turn or Docking Guru turn. My turn is used to disembark ships underway in rough seas. I use this turn regularly during my watch as harbor pilot. The large swells off the north coast of Puerto Rico usually come from the north or northeast. When I clear the harbor mouth of El Morro, I head straight out into these large swells. The ship starts to pitch considerably and you wonder how the hell you are going to get off this thing. Let me tell you, this is the most stressful part of my occupation, nothing causes me more distress than thinking how am I going to disembark outside at night in rough seas. When I board the ship at her berth to sail her, I’m already thinking of the circus stunt I’m going to perform to get off. This is more stressful to me than any complicated maneuver I may have to perform in the harbor with the largest ship that fits in San Juan. The Maffioli turn consists of turning the ship in a way so as to cause a lee, or momentary flat and calm area of ocean so you can disembark safely onto the pilot boat. It’s more complicated than just ordering hard to port. The speed of the ship and the rate of turn must be just right. The key is timing, thus this maneuver is ordered and performed when you are at the ladder ready to go down. The speed of the ship must be sufficient to make the ship lean to starboard and stabilize the rolling of the ship. The rate of turn must be sufficient to cause the lean and give you enough time to go down the ladder while the ship is turning. The ship will be turning from dead on to the swells to port so the swells will be on her starboard side. If you wait too long, and the ship steadies up on her new course (008 to 320 true), she will start to roll and the ladder will come off the side shell. This is a horrible felling when the ladder comes off the ships side, you really feel like you are in the Cirque Du Soleil, and I’m the main attraction, a fat man on a wood and rope ladder in the dark ocean mist. And they say I make too much money.

Jun 03, 2010

Pilot Induced Oscillation or PIO

This is an aviation term used to describe the action or reaction a pilot has when flying a plane and trying to correct changes in pitch yaw or roll. Most common when the pilot is about to touch down on the runway, he pulls up just a bit and the plane pitches up to much, then he pushes down, thus creating an oscillation. Dangerous "porpoising"and uncontrolled flight can result, forcing a go around or a hard landing. This is not from any incompetence on behalf of the pilot, it’s simply a very fine touch, or as I like to say “MoJo”. MoJo is a state of proficiency only attained by years of trial and error. It takes experience, but also one must be truly gifted to find your MoJo. In helicopter flight this is apparent the second you pull on the collective and your light on the skids. Hovering a helicopter is one of the most difficult MoJos I have ever come to master. After 300 hours I was just getting a tantalizing taste of it. PIO is super apparent when hovering. In the ship handling business, PIO is also very apparent and visible. Just the other day I had the 740 foot Trailer Bridge big barge, make her approach to the San Juan entrance and right before the Captain entered, he made a hard right turn. Perhaps he thought he was too close to the green buoy, but he was fine. This input of rudder magnified throughout the towing system and the barge began an extremely erratic path into the harbor. It was not until we got aboard the barge and secured the assist tugs that we were able to correct this PIO, and straighten the barge behind the tug. Directing tugboats assisting a ship coming alongside a dock is a good place to witness PIO. This last two years I have been training a docking master “Alex,” and three deputy pilots for the San Juan Bay Pilot association. Their level of training and MoJo can be directly assotiatied with the amount of PIO displayed, while performing a docking maneuver. So the moral of the story is;When off to work you GO, beware of PIO.

May 20, 2010

Mr. Momentum;

In physics, the property or tendency of a moving object to continue moving. For an object moving in a line, the momentum is the mass of the object multiplied by its velocity. Big ships and barges have oodles of mass.When tasked with directing this mass down a narrow channel, it becomes a fine line between head way and steerage way. You cannot go so slow as to not have directional control and you cannot go to fast or you will not stop at the end of the channel. Here is when the docking master or Pilot calls on his or her experience to determine the just amount of speed so as to not carry to much Momentum. It’s great to come into a turning basin with a large ship and stop the engines so as to just glide to the birth under the assistance of tug boats. Sometimes the ship takes a sheer to some undesired direction and now we have to stop the mass to redirect it. If you are too aggressive with your backing, the ship can swing even worst to the undesired direction, mainly caused by propeller torque. In the worst case, one has to order anchors down to stop the ship. This is not good for ones emotional health. Just remember to not go faster than you need to, so you won’t have to pay the penalty of dealing with Mr. Momentum.

Apr 14, 2010

What Money?

Greetings to all,

As of today, I was voted treasurer of the San Juan Bay Pilots. How about them apples. Now they want me to watch the money. Well, let me tell you that it will be an honor, and that I will be pleased to perform this task.

All the Best; George.

Mar 12, 2010

Ode to a shiphandler

The person who finds work on a tug or ship is of two types. One who plans to work as a mariner and attends one of many fine academies. These academies prepare a student for shipboard business, navigation, and shiphandling. This person graduates with cookie cutter methods of teaching shiphandling and not necessarily the real world mechanisms of ship movement. The other, starts from the bottom of the license food chain. It’s only as he or she realizes that this is what they are good at, that one works up the ladder to become a well rounded mariner. Shiphandling for this person was acquired by dedicating extended periods at sea and exploring the realm of this fine art. Many maneuvers were done on the verge of soiling oneself. I have witnessed both type of masters, and I have to admit that the latter is usually a more dedicated and refined shiphandler.

Mar 04, 2010

To the Honorable Pilot Commission,

I am deeply grateful for this opportunity. My maritime career started at an early age after noticing that this is what I liked. Being on the water and feeling the elements on my face was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Sagebrush, I cleaned and positioned buoys for the port of San Juan. After my military service with the Coast Guard, I was granted a job as seaman with Crowley Towing & Transportation. At Crowley, I slowly worked my way up the ranks and licenses to be granted a job as Docking Master. Docking Masters are highly specialized jobs that are only given to individuals with vast Tug boat experience and considered well adjusted mariners. By adjusted I mean (To achieve a psychological balance with regard to one's external environment, one's needs, and the demands of others).In 1997 I was granted a position as Harbor Pilot. My first assignment was to the Port of Yabucoa. After two years at Yabucoa, I transferred to the Port of SJ. Now as a senior Pilot, I find myself defending my integrity against alleged acts of indiscretion, as brought forth by my colleagues.My dear Mother taught me to stick to one’s convictions and allow other people to talk about your virtues, but never blow your own horn.Without blowing my own horn, I think the local shipping industry knows that I am a hard working well adjusted mariner, with an impeccable safety record and a kind disposition to work towards a common goal. It is equally important that my dear colleagues know, that I value our unique alliance as independent contractors. I wish more than anything to find a balance in which we may coexist for the benefit of the industry and the economy of our Isla Del Encanto. Thank You…..

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Feb 08, 2010


To be unable to maneuver the tug boat due to the tension of the tow line. As a docking master assisting large tows, this term is relevant and relative. Relevant, because I care deeply if the captain can’t maneuver and relative, because if the captain and I work together we can get the tug and barge out of any situation. If the captain feels he can’t come along side because the barge is off to one side, we can correct that with the assist tugs and perhaps using a sling shot maneuver. The sling shot, is when the tow is all shortened up and the tug is ready to come along side, he simply pulls on the barge with the chain to help bring the bow of the barge closer to his stern so he may pivot and come along side. This maneuver requires just the right amount of twin screw to pull on the chains. If we coordinate this maneuver, we will never be In-Irons.

Jan 29, 2010

The shipping industry in Puerto Rico is of extreme importance.

Such a small island with such a consumer base population is the recipe for massive shipping business. The port of San Juan is the door to one of the busiest ports of the world. I feel privileged to be one of the experts in providing a safe passage through this door. The steam ship agents and principals can only take so much before the industry suffers. We, as gate keepers must facilitate, not restrict the traffic through this door of opportunity in such a scary economy.

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Dec 30, 2009



Dec 20, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

May this season bring you and your family good health and long life. I thank you for a wonderful year and your faithful support. All the Best from Captain George Maffioli CEO of Caribbean Docking Masters & Pilots Inc.

Dec 02, 2009

May the Holidays bring Joy to your family.

It is my deepest wish that these holidays bring peace and repent to all who need it. Happy Holidays from Caribbean Docking Masters & Pilots Inc.

Nov 21, 2009

New San Juan Bay Pilots Page

I just added the link to my useful links page, this new SJ Pilots page is well done and full of info. Enjoy.

Nov 21, 2009

Happy birthday to my dear daughter Jennifer Maffioli

May the sails of a thousand ships push you towards your destination in life.I love you very much, Happy birthday Jenny. Love Dad….

Nov 18, 2009

"My Deepest Condolences"

Capt. Eladio Rodriguez, from McAlister Towing San Juan has passed. We have lost a dear friend and an asset to the industry.

Nov 15, 2009

Pacquiao vs Cotto, Pacquiao wins by TKO

What a fight, they both beat the crap out of eachother and the reff had to stop the fight on the 12th round. My man Cotto has huge cojones to even last as long as he did. What a fight!

Nov 07, 2009

Why ships love smooth hands!

Remember ships and barges or any large vessels carry with them a huge amount of momentum. This momentum must be persuaded, in a nice way, to change directions at your command. If you try to force a ship to change directions with brute force, you will be in for a real surprise. I see this a lot with the cruise ship captains who do their own maneuvers. They try to steer the slow forward moving ship with the bow thruster. This is like instead of using the handle of a shovel, you pick up the dirt by the scoop end. Why try to steer a ship by its pivot point. I could give you many example of going against the flow of momentum. The more in tune you are with the forces that govern your vessel, the more effortless your maneuver will be, and you will look like a docking guru doing it. Ships like smooth hands.

Nov 04, 2009

I have been docking vessels for twenty years now.

My heart is heavy with the feeling that professional vessel docking is going the same way the medical malpractice industry has gone. I guess we all pay for just a few bad apples. The new generation of docking professionals and some old farts, are more concerned with damage liability than perfecting their craft. Most maneuvers are done with the thought of a lawsuit and are performed with that as the primary motivation. Like a dark cloud over each docking maneuver even if it’s a clear day, this adds to an already stressful profession. Licenses insurance is already between 7 and 10 k a year to insure a harbor pilot. When the KA KA hits the fan, everyone is dividing up percentages of negligence to divi up the insurance pay. I understand that negligence has to be accountable. I’m just saying that the love for the art of shiphandling is fast becoming extinct.

Nov 02, 2009

San Juan Bay Traffic Page Back Up and Running!

For 24 hour shipping traffic, visit this link OR GO TO USEFUL LINKS IN MY WEB PAGE AND CLICK SAN JUAN TRAFFIC. ENJOY.

Oct 31, 2009

Happy Halloween and Happy Birthday to My brother Marco

It is a beautiful day in San Juan today, the air is very clear and you can see for miles and miles.

Oct 27, 2009

The cruise ship season has started.

This week marks the beginning of the cruise ship season for the Port of San Juan. We will see an increase in general shipping as well due to the holiday demand. It’s all good and I welcome the work.

Oct 25, 2009

News Flash! As of 1130 today the Fire is out.

I just sailed a ship from Puerto Nuevo channel and I see that the Gulf Oil Fire is out. YYYYYUUUPPPIIII..

Oct 23, 2009

San Juan Bay Open as of 1100 Today

Fire is still burning, but the CG has opened the bay with some restrictions. Please call 787-249-2041 and ask Coast Guard for resriction that may affect you.

Oct 23, 2009

San Juan Bay Closed due to Epic Explosion.

The blast was recorded as a small earth quake and glass was shattered for a mile around. One of the gas storage tanks exploded dangerously close to a loaded tanker at CaPeCo berth. The blast was at 1220 am and the tanker was removed at 0120. I had just sailed the Trailer Bridge Barge 2 hours before the blast. The Coast Guard has closed the bay till further notice. I will inform any updates via my blog.

Oct 15, 2009

Shipping traffic not affected by Labor Strike today

More than a strike, it was like a massive demonstration paralyzing Plaza Las Americas Mall and the banking district. I saw in the news interesting protest cards all with great resentment towards the governor. I would not like to be in his shoes. All the best;

Oct 14, 2009

San Juan Vessels traffic page is still down.

As soon as I have some news on the new page I will post it.

Oct 14, 2009

Today is the National Labor strike.

I start watch at 0430 and as far as I am concerned, it is business as usual. All shipping in San Juan Bay will be welcomed and serviced with pride and professionalism.

Oct 11, 2009

The Three SSS in Towing.

While towing in a narrow channel, I get a lot of Captains who ask me if the tow is too short or too long. I always prefer for it to be long rather than too short, especially if towing in the pins as Crowley advocates. Too Short, Too Slow, Too Soon is what I call the three SSS. If you are in any combination of the three SSS you will be having a hard time controlling the barge. Every inch of your rudder angle will be magnified ten times to the barge through the tow system. This creates more corrections I have to make with the assist tugs just to keep the barge in the channel. So if in the Pins beware of the Three SSS……..

Continue reading "The Three SSS in Towing."

Oct 06, 2009

San Juan Vessels Page Still Down

Apparently it is being reworked in a new format. We will inform all users when back up.

Sep 30, 2009

Docking Guru Tip of The Day

Turning a ship slows it down faster than backing on her engine. If in narrow channel back bow assit tug alongside to slow the vessel and use the rudder to stay in the channel. If you back the aft tug you will affect the pivot point and turn the ship.

Sep 24, 2009

SanJuanVessel traffic page is down... page has been down for a week now. I hope they fix it soon.

Sep 16, 2009

Shiphandling Guru Tip of the Day!

Start slow and with more rudder into the turn, then increase power and decrease rudder as you flare out of the turn...Its nice when you don't have to put opposite rudder to stop the swing...

Sep 06, 2009

Movie magic

Today they were filming on the puerto nuevo dock with huge explosions. If you were anywhere near puerto nuevo this afternoon you must have seen it. Sweet.

Sep 02, 2009

New useful link added to "USEFUL LINK" page

Intellicast storm tracker used by passenger ships.