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PASSINGS / Molly Kool

Pioneer female ship captain

March 10, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Molly Kool, 93, the first woman in North America to become a licensed ship captain, died Feb. 25 at her home in Bangor, Maine.

Kool got her captain's papers in 1939 and sailed the Atlantic Ocean between Alma, Canada, and Boston for five years, her friend Ken Kelly said.

Kool grew up in the village of Alma in New Brunswick, where she learned a love of the sea and sailing from her father, a Dutch ship captain. At 23, she made history by earning the title of captain after the Canadian Shipping Act was rewritten to say "he/she" instead of just "he," Kelly said.

She overcame superstitions about women working at sea and won the respect of male counterparts as she sailed her father's 70-foot boat in the dangerous waters of the Bay of Fundy, said Mary Majka, who joined Kelly in a fundraising effort to pay to move Kool's ancestral home from Alma to a knoll in nearby Fundy National Park overlooking the bay this spring.

"She was good enough that she won the respect of the old salts," Majka said.

Kool left New Brunswick after marrying Ray Blaisdell of Bucksport, Maine, in 1944. They were together for 20 years before he died. In the 1960s, she married businessman John Carney, who bought her a boat, which he dubbed the Molly Kool.

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