Captain Sandy Bendixen first saw a ship come into port when she was four years old and knew then she wanted to be a Captain someday. After graduating from King’s High School in 2001, Captain Bendixen went on to attend Maine Maritime Academy, completing a B.S. in Marine Transportation Operations and earning a United States Coast Guard Third Mate’s Unlimited License.
Captain Bendixen sailed approximately 10 months per year at sea, advancing her license supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom bringing US Military Cargo from the United States to the Middle East on large cargo ships. In addition to performing the duties of a Deck Officer on a ship, Captain Bendixen’s advanced medical training in Shipboard Medicine and previous work experience as an E.M.T while attending college, Captain Bendixen was always assigned as the Medical Officer on board. She saved the life of a longshoreman when a forklift fell 40 feet and landed on top of him. Captain Bendixen risked her life to free him and provide medical care to him while he was trapped under the forklift and was nationally recognized for her heroism and medical care.
By the time Captain Bendixen had reached the rank of Chief Mate, second in command of the ship, she had sailed around the world multiple times and transited both the Suez and Panama Canals on several occasions. Approximately 15-20 years earlier than most mariners, at the age of 29, Captain Bendixen was given her first command. Captain Bendixen sailed as the Master of the largest heavy lift ship in the U.S. Fleet. As Master, Captain Bendixen delivered cargo to Antarctica and Thule, Greenland; navigating ice fields, fog and docking at floating ice piers. Captain Bendixen was the youngest and first female Captain to command a ship going so far North and South.
Captain Bendixen had one more step to reach the pinnacle of her Maritime Career, she wanted to become a maritime Pilot. In September 2018 at 36 years old, after a rigorous training program and drawing every chart of Puget Sound from memory, Captain Bendixen became the first female Puget Sound Pilot and also in Washington State History. Captain Bendixen is one of 52 pilots in Washington State who are considered experts in shiphandling and the waters of Puget Sound. Captain Bendixen spends her days boarding moving ships at sea by climbing a rope ladder to bring the ship into port and maneuver the ship to the dock. There are approximately 1,100 harbor pilots in the United States and less than 3 percent of the pilots in the U.S. are female. Most pilots meet the requirements to become a pilot by 45-50. In her free time, she enjoys time out on the water with her husband Mike, also a Captain, spending time with friends and family, as well as mentoring.
Congratulations to the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient, Captain Sandy Bendixen!