Myrtle “Molly” Kool was the first woman in North America officially recognized as a sea captain. Born in Alma, New Brunswick, Canada, in 1916, she grew up intimately involved in shipping in the Bay of Fundy as her father operated at 70-foot transport vessel.
Graduating from high school during the Great Depression when jobs were scarce, she decided to pursue a job as a sea captain. At the age of 23 she earned her Master Mariner’s Certificate, sending a telegram home which read: “Call me Captain from now on.” For the next five years, she commanded the “JeanK,” her father’s vessel. Her most common tranports were pulp and paper products in the Bay of Fundy, which is described as having the highest wave action in the world, although occasionally the “JeanK” would venture as far south as Boston.
Molly's resourcefulness is reported in one story involving the collision of the “JeanK” with another ship in one of the dense fogs of the North Atlantic. Molly was thrown overboard in the collision and came close to losing her life in an encounter with the ship’s propeller. However, she saved herself by grabbing a piece of timber as it floated by. Meanwhile, passengers on the ship were pelting her with life preservers in attempts to help her. Finally, she is reported to have yelled, “I’m already floating. Stop throwing useless stuff at me and send a boat.”
After a gas explosion demolished much of the “JeanK,” she moved to Maine with her first husband, Ray Blaisdell, where she worked selling Singer sewing machines and found that she actually like living on solid ground. She retired after losing both legs to vascular disease. She died of pneumonia on Mar. 4, 2009, two days after celebrating her 93rd birthday. Her ashes were scattered on the Bay of Fundy not far from her birthplace.