Meet Mystic Seaport’s Shannon McKenzie
Published on August 8th, 2016
As the Director of Watercraft Programs at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, Shannon McKenzie is responsible for the operating vessels at the Museum including schooner Brilliant, the boathouse livery fleet, and the launches. She also manages annual events at Mystic Seaport such as The Wooden Boat Show and the Antique & Classic Boat Rendezvous. She is a licensed captain with a 500-ton offshore ticket and many years of experience in the traditional sailing community.
“The first time I ever went sailing was when I was in college,” recalls Shannon, who lives in Mystic. “I was a Science major studying marine science at Colgate, and had never been on a boat. I stepped on board S/V Westward at the dock in Woods Hole as I was doing a semester abroad program with Sea Education Association (SEA) and I remember the feeling that I was finally at home, and had all the things that were a part of me were there on Westward.”
“That six-week trip from Woods Hole to the Caribbean changed my life. I went from having never been a boater to working aboard large, traditional sailing vessels after college, and I eventually ended back at SEA. I worked there as a mate on the boats and then continued to work in their office as the Marine Operations Coordinator, doing crew and port logistics and related tasks.”
Shannon and her husband relocated to Connecticut about nine years ago when he took a faculty position at the University of Connecticut. She was able to secure a position in the Watercraft Department at Mystic Seaport. “It was a natural fit to start working at the Museum,” she says. “I like that there is a lot of variability in what I do every day. I get to see many schooners and large vessels come in and tie up at our marina, which means I get to see friends I’ve sailed with and then watch them come in and experience everything we have to offer at the Museum. I get to work on all of the different events we orchestrate, and of course I get to work with so many great people.”
If she had to pick, what vessel in the Museum’s collection means the most to Shannon? “Of course, I love schooner Brilliant!” she enthuses. “I get to go out sailing on her on occasion. She’s a fast, lovely boat with a wonderful captain in Nicholas Alley, and we have a great program for teens and adults. Brilliant has been constantly maintained to such a high standard. She’s never undergone a major refit of any type, and the vast number of people who have been out on the boat has created a community that holds her in their hearts.” – Read On.