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Capt. Molly Kool Carney: a trailblazer of the seas

BANGOR, Maine — Molly K. Carney, who as Molly Kool was the first woman in North America to become a licensed ship captain, has died at the age of 93.

Known in Canada by her maiden name, Molly Kool won her captain's papers in 1939 and sailed the Atlantic Ocean between Alma, New Brunswick, and Boston for five years, her friend Ken Kelly said.

Capt. Kool grew up in the village of Alma, 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 her 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 her 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.

Capt. 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.

In her final years, she lived in an independent retirement community in Bangor, where there was a lighthouse and a captain's wheel in the hallway outside her room and where residents called her Capt. Molly, Kelly said. She died there Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009.

Capt. Kool also was well known in the United States, where she appeared on an episode of Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Capt. Molly Kool Carney: a trailblazer of the seas 03/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 6, 2009 9:36pm]
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