Jill Friedman of Lake Jackson, Texas, is an old salt who holds United States Coast Guard licences for Unlimited Master and DPO (Dynamic Positioning Operator) Unlimited. It is not only her professional credentials, however, that make her stand out. Captain Jill is an independent woman. In an industry where both men and women tend to follow the herd, she dances to her own music, never afraid to speak her mind on society, politics and shipping. Above all, she has a genuine love for the sea and a passion for art and photography which she shares in her blog, Capt Jills Journeys.

Captain Jill is largely self-taught as an artist. But her eye for colour and sense of harmony are clearly evident. When she was still an AB (able seaman) sailing on a SeaRiver Maritime tanker, she painted Marine Dreams (pictured below) using the ship’s deck paints. “The weather was too rough to work,” she recalls, “so the Chief Mate told us all to just stay safe. I went into the bosun’s locker and cut off a piece of canvas and started painting.”

Marine Dreams   © Jill Friedman

In her latest work Nemo (2019), Captain Jill takes a minimalist approach to show a solitary fish wending its way across an undersea jungle of corals. The fish seems to pop out of the dark background to surprise the viewer. The painting is simple but quite endearing, something one would be glad to hang on one’s wall.

Nemo   © Jill Friedman

Captain Jill is also a photographer. The times she has worked offshore and travelled to foreign lands as a tourist have yielded a slew of photographs. Some of her best shots depict the mysterious power and beauty of the sea. This is not surprising. Captain Jill’s love affair with boats and the water goes back to her childhood days in Florida. Says she: “I started out sailing on my father’s old schooner, got my own sea snark when I was a kid, and worked around town on lots of friends’ fishing boats and the party boats down the street.”

Supply boat in fog   © Jill Friedman

Offshore, Gulf of Mexico   © Jill Friedman

Countless women have risen to the rank of ship master or the position of CEO in a maritime company. However, few have broken the maritime glass ceiling in the way Captain Jill has. Thus far, for instance, she is the only female ship captain to openly oppose the call of the Sailors’ Society to make wellness training for seafarers mandatory. “More expensive and time consuming ‘training’. All on the backs of sailors,” she commented recently on Facebook. “The COMPANIES cause most of the issues in the maritime industry, but so many of them are blamed on the sailors and they are always the ones that have to deal with it.”

As much as she loves art and photography, Captain Jill cares deeply about her profession and her fellow sailors. Her outspokenness can seem iconoclastic at times. It may even be off-putting to some. But she is a free spirit after all. “If everybody likes you, you’re pretty dull,” the legendary actress Bette Davis once said.  Dull, Captain Jill certainly is not.

~ Barista Uno


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