History making Maid of the Mist captain just staying the course
In fact, in her current line of work, McHenry considers herself lucky to work in an “office” that doesn’t stay in the same place every day.
As the first female to serve as captain of a tour boat for the Maid of the Mist Corp. which is sailing its 135th season, McHenry is responsible for guiding passengers in her vessel along the lower Niagara River, beneath the misty waters of mighty Niagara Falls.
“A boat does move, your office probably doesn’t move – if it does, then it shouldn’t,” said McHenry, who started working as a captain on June 26. ”You got to be ready for things to change a lot and roll with the punches.”
McHenry began her life on the water as a teenager in Rochester when she was invited by a family who owned a tour boat to earn some extra money as a deckhand. At that point, she had no intention of becoming a boat captain and was, instead, planning to head off to college.
She enrolled in the pharmacy program at the State University of New York at Buffalo before deciding that she preferred a life that involved working on boats.
“I dropped out of school and got my captain’s license and my parents only cried for a little while,” she said.
The Maid of the Mist job attracted McHenry for the sheer challenge of the maneuvering of each ship through the international waters for the delight of thousands of tourists from home and abroad each and every day. Her trips give her an up-close view of both the American Falls and Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
“As far as just boat handling in general, it is challenging,” she said during a recent tour. “We’re running the boat into the Horseshoe, that’s the main attraction, that’s what we’re here to do. We take people right to the base of the falls. It’s not always the easiest maneuvering and it’s what keeps it interesting. It’s what keeps it fun.”