CAPTAIN'S PAGE

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me and my family November 2008
After retiring as a Captain for Lykes Lines back in 1995 I was encouraged to write down some of my sea stories by an internet friend, Dick Ahren, also known as "freighterman" after creating a web site he called "The Internet Guide to Freighter Travel". It was an informative and useful source of information for prospective passengers who wished to travel by freighters, or ships other than cruise and passenger ships. Dick agreed to host my "Captain's Page" as part of his web site. However in recent months this resource has changed ownership, and I no longer have access to it.  For that reason I have updated it and am hosting it under my own URL. Some people have asked me how I came about my website name of CaptainMcd.  Back in 1996 we were about to move my young family from Kansas to Texas.  My daughter Kathryn insisted that I get an account with AOL for her to stay in touch with her friends via email.  I obliged and opened up an account.  My daughter told me that we could have five members, so that our whole family could have an email address.  Kathryn assigned me as captainmcd.  I still have that address, and have used it.  At home I am not a captain, only a chief cook and bottle washer, but was happy to know that she considered me to be the captain of the family.

Captain McDonnell's Bio
I was born and raised in a town called Hollidaysburg, In Central Pennsylvania. My father was a design engineer at the Pennsylvania Railroad's Test Department in Altoona. He was an honors graduate from Yale back in 1922, and went to work as a young engineer for what was then the world's largest corporation, the Pennsylvania Railroad.  My mother was a prep school graduate from Highland Hall. She never went to college, but was an intelligent woman who taught me a lot.  She tutored me during my license exams, even sent me the morse code blinker light messages.  She could have been a captain with her skill and knowledge.  Both my parents loved to travel by ship, and as a young couple between the two world wars made a number of trips on freighters in the Caribbean. They loved to take me and my brother and sister on exciting and unusual trips to places like Moose Factory, Ontario, on a cruise on the Kenora across Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba, the North Gaspe from Quebec City to Gaspe, and a cruise on Lakes Huron and Superior on the S.S. Norgoma. I really loved ship and train travel of that era. My father did not want me to work for the railroad, but felt that the shipping industry still had a future. I applied and was accepted at the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York, where I graduated in 1965.

The Vietnam war was starting when I graduated, and I quickly found work as a Junior Deck Officer on the U.S.N.S. Eltinge, a troop ship run by the Navy. We carried as many as 7000 soldiers from San Francisco to Vietnam as well as from Korea to Vietnam. The troop ships were mostly laid up after 1965, they were considered too primitive for modern times. I got a job on a wartime built Victory Ship, the Alamo Victory in November 1965, which was operated by American Foreign Steamship Company. I sailed with them from 1965 to 1973 on various ships and increased my licenses and my jobs from Third Mate up to Captain, and got my first command, a C-3 called the American Robin at the age of 29.
As the Vietnam war wound down, and government contracts became scarce, I found a job as a Chief Mate with Lykes Lines in 1974, and worked there until my retirement in 1995.

On a trip to South America and the Falkland Islands in 1982 I met my wife to be, Ines Gonzalez down at the Southern tip of Argentina, on Perrito Moreno Glacier. We were married the following year. It isn't easy to find a wife when you are sailing six to ten months a year, but I was lucky.

I retired in 1995 when my wife, who was twenty years out of medical school in Argentina, was required to do a three year residency in an American medical school in order to be licensed in the United States. She needed help with our young family, and I went from being a captain to being Mr. Mom. It was rewarding for a while, but after five years of that (at which time I wrote these sea stories) I wanted to go back to sea. The terms of my retirement would not let me do this, but there was an exception made for work on humanitarian relief vessels. I read about an organization called Mercy Ships, who operated several hospital ships that visited poor countries around the world with a volunteer crew and medical staff, and gave free surgeries to those who could not otherwise afford them. I also sailed for a time as a Captain of the M.V. Louisa, a ship owned by LeSea Global Feed the Hungry that carried food and missionaries to the Caribbean. I didn't make money, but I re-connected to my love of ships and the sea.  At this writing I have just renewed my Master's license for the 9th time, and can sail another five years, God willing.

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The end of my first ship as 3rd mate, the Alamo Victory
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Troop Ship Gen. Leroy Eltinge 1965
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Mormactide-Deck Cadet 1962
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African Rainbow-Deck Cadet 1963
The American Robin
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The American Robin was my first command at age 29
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I met my wife to be, Ines on a glacier in 1982 (we are the couple on the right)
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Graduate of U.S. Merchant Marine Academy 1965