WCW: Captain Kate McCue

captain kate mccue
June 21, 2017  
Categories: Op-Eds

This article was brought to you by JTF Awesome member Benchmade.

Since June 25th is the International Maritime Association’s Day of the Seafarer, we figured this week  (and this woman in particular) would be the appropriate time and subject with which to start a few Woman Crush Wednesday stories. Meet Capt. Kate McCue. Mad Duo

WCW: Don’t Call it a Boat — Captain Kate McCue

“Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck. Your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling”~ Vincent van Gogh (as quoted by Capt. Kate McCue)

Kate McCue is Master of the Celebrity Summit, one of the megaton cruise ships operated by Celebrity Cruises. The Celebrity Summit is nearly a thousand feed long, over a hundred feet wide across the beam, carries nearly 2,500 passengers and is staffed by almost a thousand crew from more than sixty countries.

The bridge watch at dusk.

Captain McCue is the first female American to ever captain such a vessel, and is one of just a handful of female captains internationally. It’s a billet she’s held now for almost two years — in fact, we’re only a few days from the two year anniversary of her promotion. A graduate of the California Maritime Academy, she began her career in 2003 as second officer, working her way up through first officer, chief officer safety, and staff captain before earning her current position.

She determined at age 12 to be the captain of a ship, later set the goal of achieving that rank by the age of 40, and reached it three years early.

Capt. McCue passing what she describes as her “favorite lady.”

McCue literally watches her ship come in.

If a man’s home is his castle, says McCue, a woman’s dream home is her ship.

McCue, whose pet fish seem to have an unfortunately high mortality rate, maintains an extremely engaging (and very witty) Instagram account. She has a great eye and a good sense of humor, and often posts quotes significant to her topic of the moment.

“I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.” -J.F.K. [Remarks at the Dinner for the America’s Cup Crews, September 14 1962]



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Asked the difference between a boat and a ship on social media, she replied,

“You put a boat on a ship, not a ship on a boat. Lifeboats go on ships, not lifeships on boats. More differences? A ship is larger and has one continuous main deck. A boat becomes a ship when it has more than one deck. When taking a turn at the same speed, a boat leans toward the center of the turn, while a ship leans away from it. You drive a boat; you steer a ship.” 

And sometimes you have to parallel park it.

Photobombed by a fish.

One interesting thing we learned while reading through some of her IG posts was that burial at sea is a still a thing. McCue explains it thusly:

“Burial at sea must be at least thirteen miles from land…The cremated remains are placed in a biodegradable box with holes that will allow it to sink and naturally decompose within minutes. A prayer for those lost is shared as they are committed to the sea…”

A look at the Grand Bahama Shipyard as they set up the blocks for a ship entering drydock. Ships float onto the docks, resting on the blocks, and the water is then pumped out.

This, that and the rudder…

Here you see 27,000 (yes, twenty seven thousand) horsepower at work.

Explains McCue,

“An azipods is a fixed pitch propeller which rotates on a 360 degree vertical axis. No traditional rudder or stern thrusters needed here! The general principle for these powerful independent units is wherever you point the blades, the stern will be pulled, rather than pushed, in that direction.”

Circle of Thrust.

“At 3000hp each, our 3 bow thrusters generally come in handy for maneuverability. And donuts. And parallel parking. And traffic circles.”


McCue and a member of her crew, somewhere near Cozumel.

The crews of Celebrity Cruise ships are approximately 20% female. McCue talks operational staffing:

“For arrivals & departures, we operate in Red condition, with a minimum of seven people on the bridge (Captain, Staff Captain, Officer of the Watch, Assistant Officer of the Watch, Lookout, Quartermaster, & Pilot). Once we’re at sea with increasing distance from land, minimum traffic, & fair visibility we go down to five persons & call it Yellow condition. Open ocean, clear visibility and little traffic can take us to Green condition with a minimum of three people on the bridge at all times including the Officer of the Watch, Assistant Officer of the Watch, & Quartermaster/Lookout.”

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McCue, who is 5 ft. 4 in. tall, below her ship – doesn’t seem like a lot of clearance, does it?

The Captain knows how to accessorize (@katespadeny and @louboutinworld apparently – this isn’t our typical area of expertise).

She has good taste in gear, too.

McCue in bow thruster no. 2. Each houses approximately 3,000 horses.

Capt. McCue at the WWII Museum in New Orleans.

Kate McCue says, “Make your passion your paycheck.” That seems like good advice.

The captain and part of her bridge team.

Read more here in this interview with Capt. Kate McCue. There’s another good interview with her on Cosmopolitan.com’s Get That Life as well. If you’d like to see where the Celebrity Summit is now, you can track here here in real time.

Brought to you today by Benchmade.


Join us every Wednesday through the end of July for another installment of Woman Crush Wednesday. Beginning in August you’ll see one every other Wednesday.

Follow Benchmade on Instagram, @benchmadeknifecompany…or check out their LE Division, @benchmade_le.

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  1. Aaron

    This is awesome. I grew up with Kate, she lived two houses down. We graduated h ugh school together. I went in the USAF and they moved out west. Glad to s we she has been so successful.

  2. Dave

    WCW, eh? Well, she certainly qualifies – there’s a lot to be said for discipline, intelligence, achievement and, of course, good looks. I just remarked to some colleagues that it is always impressive to see someone that realized what they are going to do with their life young – that level of consistency, the confidence, the expertise, the satisfaction she must ultimately derive from doing her thing, her calling…well, it’s inspirational when you’re young, perhaps just a bit envy provoking when you’re older. We’re nearly the same age, she and I, but she is the far more accomplished between us. A truly impressive and superlative individual.


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