A visit with new SS Katahdin and Moosehead Marine Museum executive director

By Shelagh Talbot

    GREENVILLE — Early on in April, we introduced Liz McKeil Cannell as new executive director of the Moosehead Marine Museum and the SS. Katahdin. Not long ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with her and talk about her recent hiring.

ed-Kate-dcX-po-24Photo courtesy of Shelagh Talbot

ALL ABOARD! — Visitors get ready to board the Kate for a summer cruise.

    When asked why she chose to apply for this position, a broad smile lit up her face. “This is my home,” she said simply. “I’m born and raised here – we were summer people but as it happens, Greenville has always been more home to me than anyplace else.” Cannell got an early start on the Katahdin as well. “When I was 16, I gave tours on the Kate,” she said. “I believe what happened was I was being a real pain in the neck, complaining about being bored, so my father (Duke McKeil) put me to work. At the time, he and a group of local leaders were just starting the Marine Museum, back in 1979. Dad brought me to the wharf where the Kate was tied up (where the Black Frog is now located) and said, ‘Okay so you’re bored; now, learn all about this boat’. And,” she grinned, “I did. I really enjoyed the job and in addition to tours, I helped type up things regarding the displays. I have a long history with the Kate and have been passionate about her preservation for years.”
    Even when she was working and living in Denver, her screensaver was a view of the Katahdin on the Greenville webcam. “Whenever I got homesick – which happened often – I’d take a look at the Kate and feel better,” she laughed.
    After Cannell finished college, she spent her professional life working with non-profits, never dreaming that this kind of work would lead to an opportunity to return home and find herself once again involved with the museum and the Kate. “I believe it was Kismet,” Cannell said. “I never would have told you five years ago that I would be executive director at the Moosehead Marine Museum.”
    When she came back to the area late this past winter she heard rumors about that possibility. She was intrigued. “However, the time between me finding out there was a need for a director and the actual ad being placed was a few months, and in the meantime I had interviewed for a few other things.”
    When Cannell met the board for the Moosehead Marine Museum, she felt things click into place. “I had done a lot of soul searching and this just was the right thing, at just the right time,” she said. “Speaking of the board,” she continued, “I would like to emphasize how pleased I am to be working with this particular group. They had been going through a process, with some help from a consultant, to re-energize and revisit the mission and vision. They are firmly recommitted to the future of the region through the boat and they have been, even in such a short period of time, so involved and clear. And,” she added “So supportive and helpful to me.”
    As of March 2013, board members are Luke Muzzy, president, Dr. Elaine Bartley, vice president, Susan Richardson, secretary, Tony Bartley, treasurer, John E. Harrington, Esq., Dr. Nathan D. Hamilton, Steven Bilodeau, Eric Stirling, Robert Howard, Henry Gilbert, George Edmondson and Louis O. Hilton who, until his recent passing in May, was one of the founding members.
    Cannell is also honored to carry on with a calling near and dear to her family. Duke McKeil, who had been so instrumental in preserving the Kate, passed away in September of 2011, “There’s the extraordinarily strong sense of legacy and a tie to my father,” she remarked. “He and I were very, very close and I miss him like crazy. We were ‘simpatico’. It’s like he’s here with me now – for one thing, his handwriting is all over the office! Although it’s a new job, everything feels familiar here — these are the things I grew up with and loved since I was a child.”
    Cannell looks forward to this summer season and plans are underway to kick things off with a gala Relaunch Celebration to be held Saturday, June 29. The McKeil’s Keel project is finished. Kate’s bottom is named for Dad after all,” she laughed. “We want to finish the exterior project along the waterfront – this whole area is going to get kind of a facelift. And then start the season with the Relaunch. The donors will be invited of course — without them we really would not have been able to attract the Community Development Block Grant or some of the other monies to fix the boat.”
    The people from Prock Marine in Rockland are invited as well, since they were the ones who did all that work last fall. Cannell’s mother Sue McKeil has been invited to rechristen the keel. “She was so pleased to have been asked,” Cannell noted. Rockin’ Ron and The New Society Band will play for the event and there will be plenty of food and drink on board to round out the evening.
    The next day, Sunday, June 30, is the fifth annual Bike ‘n Boat held in conjunction with the C. A Dean Memorial Hospital. Cannell is enthusiastic about this cooperative effort. “As a community we need to look at how we can partner with each other to do whatever we need to do to improve the economic situation here,” she said. Folks will meet for registration at 8:30 a.m. at the parking lot where the Katahdin is berthed. The bike ride begins at 10:30 a.m. as cyclists head up to Rockwood — 19.5 miles — where the Kate will be waiting to pick them up. Those that cannot bicycle the route are encouraged to board the Kate for a round trip.
    “It’s a wonderful event for the whole family, with lunch and live music on the Kate during the return trip,” noted Cannell. “And, it’s a great way to support Greenville’s hospital and enjoy a ride on the Katahdin.” For more information go to
    In addition to the usual cruising schedule planned, three Rock ‘n Roll cruises are scheduled on or near the full moon this summer, featuring Rockin’ Ron and his band. Reservations go fast for this very popular event. Sue Bair, who will be running the Galley this season, is planning new menus. “We want our Galley to have a new attitude,” said Cannell. “And Sue is the one to make it happen.”
    Maynard Russell, who will continue as captain of the Katahdin, has been going over the boat to make sure she’s in pristine condition. As with any old vessel, there is always some repair work to be done. He and Cannell are excited about a new GPS system being installed on the Kate this year. Points will be set on the system to coincide with points of interest on the cruise and will coordinate with a recording of cruise highlights. “These are Maynard’s ideas and we are now able to take the cruising experience to a new level with the technology afforded to us,” Cannell said. “This new GPS will free up the captain to concentrate solely on running the boat.” Eventually a flat screen TV will be installed on board and programming can be streamed to passengers during their trips.
    The pieces have fallen into place for Cannell and her two sons, Owen and Keegan. They are happily settling into their new life in Greenville. “The sense of community for all three of us has been so critical,” she smiled. “And Greenville has been very welcoming. It’s good to be home again and we are here for the long run!”

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