Walking the Plank: Terry Ingels - Soundings Online

Walking the Plank: Terry Ingels

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Terry Ingels’ first command was her own 25-foot Cape Dory sailboat at the mouth of the Chesapeake at age 18. Her most recent was an 82-foot Viking sportfisherman that cruised between the Viking factory in New Jersey and New England. In between, there have been Browards, Burgers, Palmer-Johnsons, Lazarras, Westports, Deltas, Sunseekers and Feadships — some as large as 150 feet.

Photo by Billy Black.

She’s cruised the Mediterranean, Caribbean and other far-flung places and is a member of an elite club that’s smaller than it should be: female professional captains. The experience required to advance from being a licensed deckhand to holding a 1,600-ton USCG Master’s License, 3,000-ton ITC, Upon Oceans (as Ingels does) demands a passionate commitment to seafaring and a willingness to leave “normal life” on shore for long periods of time. There have been many sacrifices in her more than 30-year career at sea, but for Ingels the rewards have always outweighed them.

These days, she has traded her epaulettes for more relaxed gear, working as a relief captain and doing private yacht deliveries for owners. It gives her flexibility and freedom while still keeping things far from routine.

First memory of being on a boat: As a little girl being with my parents, my sister and my brother on our 17-foot Glasspar, fishing and crabbing in Chesapeake Bay. Later we would even ski behind that little boat. I don’t know how my parents did it!

First boat you owned (or skippered): It was a 25-foot Cape Dory sloop. First one I skippered, a 53-foot Hatteras ED motoryacht. That was in 1989, and it was my first big break as a captain. We wintered in South Florida and were based in New York in the summer, cruising New York Harbor every weekend, except for a few trips to New England.

Last or current boat (owned or skippered): Last boat I owned was that Cape Dory. If I’m not on a boat, I have access to one. Last one I skippered for any length of time was an 82-foot Viking Skybridge sportfish last summer, starting and ending at the Viking factory [in New Jersey] and cruising all over New England in between.

Favorite boat you’ve skippered: I have two favorites, as they are two entirely different types of boats. My favorite large motor-yacht was a 150-foot Palmer Johnson — beautiful, sleek and a pleasure to maneuver. My favorite all around is any Viking sportfish. For nearly 20 years I’ve experienced firsthand how these boats have continually improved, becoming the best production boat on the water. And while I still occasionally get a call to run a larger motoryacht, most of my work is for Viking dealers or owners. There’s nothing I’d rather go to sea on.

Your dream boat: My dream boat is, without hesitation, an enclosed-bridge Viking sportfish — the bigger, the better.

Most rewarding professional experience: Orienting new owners to their new Viking, taking guests for the first time to my favorite places in New England and the Bahamas, and teaching other women to drive a boat have all been fun and gratifying, but ultimately, the most rewarding thing about my 31 years of boating has been the lasting relationships that resulted from the shared experiences with people I would never have had access to any other way.

Scariest adventure aboard: Although I have been scared many times at sea, I have been very fortunate. I hear a lot of stories from my peers and learn from them, but so far nothing of any consequence has happened. The saying goes, “luck is when preparation meets opportunity,” and looking back, in the most terrifying seas and situations, I was on a good (enough) boat with good people, the right safety equipment, adequate tools and supplies, and a whole lot of luck.

Most memorable experience aboard: I almost thought this should be the response to the scariest experience question, but I feel nothing but awe and wonder and gratitude when I recall this. I was in New York on 9/11 and spent one of the most memorable weeks of my life there from 9/10-18. I was running an 84-foot Sunseeker Manhattan. My then partner, Capt. Carl Moughan, and I had arrived the night before. We watched the towers come down. The scary part was the brief time after the second tower was hit, which removed any doubt about whether the first one was accidental or deliberate. Because we were watching the scene, we were not catching all the news on TV right away and wondered if and where a third one might hit. The port was locked for one week, so against our wishes at the time we had to stay. That week in New York, one of the most unsettling yet wondrous weeks of my life, is a most cherished memory now.

Longest time you’ve spent aboard: From 1985 to 1992 I pretty much lived aboard whatever boat I was on. My longest voyages were two trans-Atlantics from Gibraltar to Fort Lauderdale aboard a 162-foot Feadship as a watch officer. This boat carried roughly a dozen crew, and each trip took about three weeks.

Favorite destination so far: I have had the good fortune of cruising the Caribbean, parts of the Mediterranean and the Pacific Central America, the Great Lakes, and the East, West and Gulf coasts of the United States. In the end my heart is really in New England in the summer, and in the winter, the Bahamas.

Favorite nautical book: Hard to decide … Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder — a very well-told story of the history, discovery and salvage of SS Central America. I’m also very fond of N By E by Rockwell Kent — another well-told and entertaining story featuring his distinctive artwork.

Favorite nautical cause you support and why: Shake-A-Leg Miami, co-founded by the chief of neurosurgery at the University of Miami (and co-founder of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the largest, most comprehensive spinal cord injury/paralysis research center in the world), Dr. Barth Green. SALM (shakealegmiami.org) is an adaptive water sports center annually serving 12,000 children and adults of all abilities, including those with spinal cord injuries, and other physical, mental and economic challenges, by educating, enabling and encouraging people to be out on the water in Biscayne Bay.

Favorite quote about the sea: It is in reference to being in the ICW vs. being offshore. “I’d rather be in here, wishing I was out there, than out there, wishing I was in here.”

— Capt. Bob Papale

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue.