Women on the Waterfront

Terry Arford, boat captain

Thu, 05/26/2022 - 8:45am

    On the anniversary of the 60th year celebrating Windjammers Days and maritime history, we pay homage to our founder, Captain Marion Dash for her contribution as a female role model in our maritime community. It is her legacy that has inspired the Friends of Windjammer Days to celebrate the women who are working on the waterfront today who in turn inspire young girls and future maritime generations to come.

    Terry Arford received her captain’s license in 1976. After 46 years piloting boats and transporting passengers, her enthusiasm for the ocean and the people she meets has remained steadfast.

    "I still love introducing people to the coast of Maine. I love talking about the area." she shared.  During the summer season, Terry works for Captain Bill Campbell at Balmy Days Cruises.  Bill has a fleet of boats including ferries, sailboats, and a fishing boat. Captain Arford has piloted all of them. Back in the day, she would go from the pilothouse of the ferry which transports passengers out to Monhegan Island right to the helm of a sailboat that takes tourists around area lighthouses. 

    Arford grew up on the water.  Her parents had a 47' sailboat named Yworry and the family cruised all over New England when she was young.  An impressive fun fact - Terry along with her two sisters and brother are all licensed captains. "There's a lot of salt in our blood." she laughed. 

    Arford graduated from Brigham Young with a degree in English and psychology.  The psychology part may have helped with her easy going nature as a tour boat captain. She recalled some of the comments made when there were fewer female captains. “One time when the Balmy Days was tied up to the wharf at Monhegan Island and one of the locals got onboard he looked at my Teva sandals and shook his head. 'If Charlie Wade [owner, builder, and captain of the original Balmy Days] knew that the captain had pink toenails, he would be rolling over in his grave.' he said.  I didn't stop laughing until we were on the mooring" she remembered. 

    Another time, her son was crewing for her along with another female deckhand.  They took turns with responsibilities onboard and it was his turn in the coffee bar while the other crew member was in the wheelhouse with Terry.  A gentleman passenger who saw  the captain's son making coffee started commenting, "Gosh it must be really tough.  We have women up in the wheelhouse and you are down here in the coffee bar."  After a few minutes of his ranting, Terry's son yelled up to the wheelhouse, "Hey Mom, do you want cream in that coffee?" Confident in her skills, Terry never let these kinds of comments bother her. 

    “Women working on boats is far more common now than it used to be," said Terry.  "One day on the Balmy, I realized we had two female crew onboard, myself as captain, and the co-owner of the business who was also a woman, and I thought to myself – how cool is this.”

    Captain Arford takes her job very seriously. "I feel a sense of responsibility and respect for both my passengers and the geography of Maine.  Often times, I am humbled by mother nature, and I am continually surprised in spite of the fact that I have been doing this for so long." At almost 70 years old, she wouldn't change a thing.  "I used to say one of these days, I'm going to have to grow up and get a real job, but somehow that never happened.  I am so fortunate to work for such a nice company in such a beautiful place.  I don't think I could duplicate it doing something else.”

    That's the kind of passion Terry shares with visitors to our area.  How lovely is that.