Patrick G. Lynch
Veteran pilot guided ships up and down the Chesapeake for more than four decades
Captain Patrick G. Lynch, a member of the Association of Maryland Pilots who for more than four decades guided ships up and down the Chesapeake Bay, died Jan. 28 from congestive heart failure at Stella Maris Hospice. The Lutherville resident was 89.
“I look upon Pat Lynch as the ‘perfect pilot,’ ” Captain Brian H. Hope, who until his retirement in 2013 from the Association of Maryland Pilots spent 43 years on the Chesapeake Bay handling ships, wrote in an email tribute to his fellow pilot. “He was not only an excellent pilot but, as we often say when describing a hardworking individual in the pilot business, he was a good turn,” wrote Captain Hope, an author, marine artist, and former chairman of Project Liberty Ship, which owns and operates the Liberty ship S.S. John W. Brown.
“He could always be counted on to be available when called and would be ready at any time to step in to help a partner in need. He was one of my best friends and just a super guy,” Captain Hope, who lives on the Magothy River in Anne Arundel County, said in a telephone interview.
Patrick Gaierty Lynch, the son of Edgar G. Lynch, a Maryland Casualty Insurance Co. executive, and his wife, Mary Bourne Lynch,a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Cloverhill Road in the city’s Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood.
A 1947 graduate of Boys’ Latin School, he briefly attended what is now Loyola University Maryland before going into the Navy, where he was a parachute rigger in San Diego, Calif.
Captain Lynch caught the romance of the sea and ships as a boy and grew up listening to the stories of a nearby neighbor who was a bay pilot and the father of one his good friends. It filled him with ambition to one day become one.
“Captain Lynch joined the pilots as an apprentice in 1952 after two years in the Navy,” reported The Baltimore Sun in a 1981 profile. “He has only two years of college and is slightly dyslexic, although he is well-read, quoting Winston Churchill, Thucydides and Rudyard Kipling with relish.”
He completed his apprenticeship in 1958, and began his career as a Chesapeake Bay pilot on what is the longest single pilotage in the world, extending 150 miles from Baltimore to Cape Henry, Va. He would guide ships to and from Baltimore to Cape Henry, and as far north as Chesapeake City and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, where the Delaware River pilot took over or relinquished command to Chesapeake Bay pilots.
Because most cargo ships steam at mostly night and in all kinds of weather, climbing aboard a moving ship up a rope ladder with wooden rungs hung suspended over its side while the pilot carries his suitcase, amounts to scaling the side of a three-story-high piece of moving steel from the pilot boat, which is also moving alongside. “This job is hazardous only when you get on and off the ship,” he explained in a 1976 Washington Post interview.
Fog, snow, wind and the Chesapeake’s reputation for intense thunderstorms can complicate the life of a pilot, who is responsible for the ship and its cargo, coupled with the physical vagaries of the bay with its narrow channels, dangerous shoals, and shallow water. “The Chesapeake Bay is kind of famous for ts thunderstorms. The wind can go from nothing almost to a gale force in a matter of minutes,” he told The Post. “A thunderstorm or a snowstorm can give you bad reception on the radar. So you have to be very cautious.”
“I remember one of my first passages as a young pilot,” he explained in a 1979 Sun interview. “The ship’s master called me ‘Red’ because of my hair. When the fog set in, he called me ‘Captain.’ ”
Captain Lynch’s base was the association’s office on Baylis Street in Canton. “Lynch arrives at work looking anything but a white-uniformed ship captain or denimclad merchant seaman with knit watchcap; he’s dressed in a sports jacket, slacks and tie and carries a small suitcase and raincoat, a jaunty businessman ready to go to sea,” The Post article said.
All pilots dress in the same non-nautical style of clothes. “The clothes make a statement, how you feel about the job,” he told The Post. “The captain is always well dressed. When you go on board, you get no less respect than he does.”
When asked if he had plenty of stories to tell from his years sailing the Chesapeake, Captain Lynch replied: “There’s an old saying. A good pilot doesn’t have any stories.”
“I first met Pat Lynch when I was sailing as a deck officer on a ship bound into Baltimore,” said Captain Hope, whose book, “Bay Pilot: A History of the Association of Maryland Pilots,” was published last year. The association, which was founded in 1852, is the oldest statecodified organization of pilots in the U.S. “We had a lively discussion about various topics, ranging from shotguns to politics. I thought, ‘Wow, if all pilots are as interesting as this one, it must be quite the association.’ ”
When Captain Hope was selected for his apprenticeship, the two men renewed their friendship “which continued through all my years as a pilot,” he said. “Everyone really liked Pat Lynch. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word.”
Captain Lynch served on the association’s board of supervisors and was appointed by Gov. Harry R. Hughes to the state Board of Pilot Examiners.
He also served for many years on the board of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and began a commitment from the pilots to the alliance for the restoration of the estuary. he had been a longtime board member of the United Seamen’s Service, an international organization that supports seafarers in ports around the world, including Baltimore.
When he turned 65 in 1994, he retired from the association.
Captain Lynch, who had lived in Federal Hill and North Roland Park, was a volunteer with Meals On Wheels of Central Maryland. He was a resident of the Mercy Ridge Retirement Community in Lutherville at his death.
In addition to his work as a pilot, Captain Lynch was a full colonel in the Maryland Air National Guard, flying Grumman twinengine flying boats from 1955 through 1971. He had 8,000 hours of flying time behind him when he retired as commander of the 135th Tactical Airlift Group, based at the Glenn L. Martin Airport in Middle River.
Captain Lynch had restored several homes in Oxford and Federal Hill and was an avid woodworker. He enjoyed waterfowl hunting, backpacking, sailing, reading and travel, and regularly attended the Renaissance Institute at Notre Dame of Maryland University. He was a member of the North Naples Country Club in Florida.
Several years ago, after the death of a fellow pilot, Captain Lynch was asked to give the eulogy. “At the end of his talk, Pat used the term that pilots often use when wishing their fellow pilots a pleasant voyage, ‘Good trip to you Roger,’ ” said Captain Hope. “I can only say the same to my dear friend and partner. Good trip to you, Pat.”
Plans for a memorial service to be held in March are incomplete.
He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Sally M. Seifert of Lutherville; two sons, Christoper W. Lynch of Glyndon and Damian B. Lynch of Tarpon Springs, Fla.; a stepson, Rob Seifert of Ocean City; three stepdaughters, Dorrie Spillman of Baltimore County’s Charlesbrooke neighborhood, Susan Seifert and Tracey Kimball, both of Towson; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. An earlier marriage to Stephany Watson Smith ended in divorce.
Patrick Lynch was also a full colonel in the Maryland Air National Guard.