twin lights looking north

PHOTO: Twin Lights and New York Harbor

Captain Ned Britton to Speak on November 8

Highlands, NJ —  The year 1694 was a good one…especially if you happened to be a sea captain headed toward New York harbor. For it was in that year that the Sandy Hook Pilots Association was formed. Two-plus centuries ago, this was merely a sound idea. Today, federal law mandates that all ships entering or exiting a U.S. port utilize the services of a licensed harbor pilot. At 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 8, Captain Ned Britton (Ret.) will present Safe Harbor: The Sandy Hook Pilots to kick off the 2014–15 season of the Millicent Mercer Johnsen Lecture Series at the Twin Lights. 

Captain Britton, who grew up on Staten Island (where the Sandy Hook Pilots are based), retired from service in 2008 and is now a Middletown resident. He began his service with the pilots in 1972 as an apprentice, and became a licensed harbor pilot in 1980. During his 28 years at the helm, he successfully guided more than 4,000 ships in and out of New York and New Jersey ports.

“What an honor to have Captain Britton as our first guest lecturer this season,” says Tim Dring (USN Ret.) co-chair of the Twin Lights Historical Society programs committee. “Visitors to the Twin Lights watch dozens of ships move in and out of the harbor every day, yet how many appreciate the level of expertise, training and commitment that goes into making these journeys safe? Ned is the perfect person to bring the day-to-day life of a harbor pilot into focus, and also provide a broad historical narrative.”

Captain Britton has served on the Sandy Hook Pilots board of trustees and was part of the team that collaborated with the Coast Guard to create the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) for the Port of New York and New Jersey. VTS, which was adopted in the late 1990s, is the “air traffic control” of American harbor and port authorities.

“As a rule, our Millicent Mercer Johnsen lecturers have strong ties to the lighthouse, but in this case the connection is especially strong,” points out Mary Jo Kenny, President of the Twin Lights Historical Society. “Millicent’s family was involved in the international shipping business and I have no doubt Captain Britton piloted more than a few of her vessels into port.”

The Millicent Mercer Johnsen Lecture Series is open free of charge to the public on a first-come first served basis. Reservations are required and must be reserved by calling the lighthouse at 732.872.1814.

sandy hook naval panorama

PHOTO: Naval Panorama Print in the collection of the Twin Lights Historical Society

Society members are accorded preference, as space in the Twin Lights auditorium is limited. For more information on Safe Harbor: The Sandy Hook Pilots—or on becoming a Twin Lights Historical Society member—log onto