New Brunswick

New Brunswick pioneer Molly Kool honoured by Coast Guard

The Canadian Coast Guard has named the first of three new icebreakers after New Brunswick trailblazer Myrtle “Molly” Kool.

New icebreaker named in the Alma native’s honour

CGCS Molly Kool, a new Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, was named after New Brunswick pioneer Myrtle (Molly) Kool, the first woman to become a licensed ship captain. (Canadian Coast Guard)

The Canadian Coast Guard has named the first of three new icebreakers after New Brunswick trailblazer Myrtle (Molly) Kool.

The Alma native, born in 1916, was the second woman in the world — and first in North America — to become a licensed ship captain.

CGCS Captain Molly Kool, 93.7 metres long by 18 metres wide, is the first new icebreaker floated in 25 years. It's part of a trio of ships purchased from Norway in August.

Ensuring "Captain" was part of the name was a brilliant decision, according to James Upham of Resurgo Place, a Moncton museum.

"It's perfect," Upham told Shift.

"The point with Molly is that she's Capt. Kool."

But earning that distinction wasn't easy.

"People actively hindered this," Upham said. "They really tried to scuttle her."

Born to a family of mariners, Kool learned her trade while working on her father's boat the Jean K, a vessel she would eventually captain. As she took on more responsibility for the vessel, Kool applied to be a licensed captain, only to be denied at first.

The shipping legislation referred to a captain as "he," Upham said, but Kool fought it, passed the test and was awarded her coastal master's certificate in 1939.

After making it through unusually rigorous testing — an attempt to ensure she would fail, he said — Kool went straight to a telegraph office and sent her father a telegram that simply read: "From now on you can call me captain."

From then on, she earned a reputation as a fearless mariner transporting cargo on the Bay of Fundy.

A symbol for women

Kool's childhood home in Alma was rebuilt with a museum aspect to honour her after her death at age 93 in 2009.

"She was a woman who plowed the way for other women to enter into various occupations which were thought as being only masculine," said Mary Majka, the Albert County Heritage Trust president at the time.

Kool's ashes were taken out in a lobster fishing boat and scattered just a few nautical miles off the coast of New Brunswick.

A Quebec shipbuilder won a now $827-million contract for the acquisition and refit of the three new vessels. The other two are expected to be ready in 2019 and 2020.

CGCS Captain Molly Kool's home port is St. John's, N.L.

With files Shift New Brunswick and The Canadian Press