Subscribe to our newsletter

A Hero Finds an Even Keel

Capt. Brittany Catanzaro on the decks of the Gov. Thomas Kean

When US Airways Flight 1549 crashed in the winter waters of the Hudson River on January, 15, 2009, NY Waterway ferries were on the scene immediately. Of those, Capt. Brittany Catanzaro on the ferry Gov. Thomas Kean, and she and her crew saved 24 people quickly who otherwise might have suffered or died from hypothermia.

Since then, Catanzaro says, "A lot more people approach me and look at me at my job. I don't consider myself a hero. I'm in the Coast Guard, so I guess I'm in the mindset that you could possibly need to save someone."

A typical workday involves getting out of bed by 4:30, and heading straight to the engine room. After fluid, gauge, compressor, and throttle checks, she says, "You fire 'em up," and she proceeds to haul commuters from Weehawken and Hoboken, N.J., to Manhattan. Her favorite route is going from Hoboken to Financial Center.

As for being a female captain, she says, "I like challenges. If you don't see too many women doing it, I want to try it." In Catanzaro's opinion, the best part of her job is being out on the water and being on boats.

Catanzaro, at 20, is the NY Waterway's first female captain and their youngest captain ever. A born sailor now living in Fairview, NJ, she grew up watching the NY Waterway ferries going back and forth since her father owned a boat next to the original terminal in Weehawken. Starting out as a deckhand, she watched captains drive boats and "knew she could do it."

A born boater, Catanzaro has been driving her father's 64-ft Hatteras, The Lady Ashley since she was twelve. Her favorite areas to cruise date back to childhood trips between Port Jefferson to Block Island, from Block to Mystic, and then back to Port Jefferson. She hopes to make this a 2- or 3-week trip this summer. She does enjoy the company of another boat, a 12-foot Boston Whaler.

She currently has her 100-ton license and is contemplating going for her 200-ton license. However, she keeps a full schedule between volunteering as an EMT, working as an engine mechanic with the Coast Guard, in addition to her full-time position ferrying commuters. This month, she is planning on going for her motorcycle license.

In the intervening months since the near-tragedy took place, her life has remained on an even keel. "My life hasn't changed drastically, since I don't plan on changing. I don't dwell on it; I don't think I need all the publicity we [NY Waterway] got," said Catanzaro.

Catanzaro has moved on since Flight 1549 and doesn't dwell on it. Though recognizable, she doesn't go out of her way to keep in touch with any of the flight passengers. "I have the [Flight 1549] Captain as a Facebook friend but that's about it," says Catanzaro.

This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

Related Features