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Queen of the Deck

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The Long Run, by Capt. Bill Pike (continued)

Joan Kessler, Queen of the Deck

Zope took leave of Southwest Harbor for good the next afternoon, with a permanently fixed transmission. Almost immediately, I picked up on something I’d failed to notice the day before—the competence and conviction Joan displays on deck. During dockings and departures, she and her husband communicate almost silently via wireless headsets, she follows orders precisely, and abjures help from guests until she knows they can be trusted.

“I’ll do that—you go forward and get the fenders in,” she told me at one point, in a tone that brooked no argument. I studied her for a moment. Was this the film and television actress, the diminutive, exceptionally pretty midwestern ingénue, who once starred alongside the likes of Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison? Was this the ever-so-merry woman who prepared absolutely perfect poached eggs in the mornings, complete with fresh fruit, orange juice, and strong, black coffee? Was this the lady who was so solicitous of her guests’ welfare that she seemed to know what they were thinking every minute of the day?

Nope. This was a bosun’s mate in sheep’s clothing, and the equal of any bosun’s mate I’d ever served with during my years in the U.S. Merchant Marine. And as with every member of her tribe, the deck itself seemed to energize her, fill her with a contagious confidence.

“Let’s go back and put away the lines,” she said as we came abeam of Clark Point. “I’ll show you how we like to do them.”

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