Almost a year ago, in April 2017, I had the pleasure of taking a cruise on the Disney Wonder during a 14-day trip that took the ship through the newly expanded locks of the Panama Canal. One of my favorite parts of the cruise was attending lectures by retired canal pilot Kenneth P. Puckett, who kept passengers enthralled with his in-depth knowledge of the canal, including its history and operations, and of the maritime industry. And he kept the lectures lively by sharing "sea stories" about his own personal experiences, from childhood to his military service to his days as a Panama Canal pilot. (Who can forget his tale of piloting a ship with a "pooping" monkey running around the bridge?)

After the cruise ended, of course, I wanted more stories from Captain Puckett. But, alas, I discovered the captain had yet to author a book that would expand upon his fabulous lectures.

I decided I would try to do something about that.

After briefly introducing myself to Captain Puckett before one of his lectures, I got in touch with him by mail and offered to help write his memoirs. Fortunately, he agreed. And for the next several months we spoke by telephone on a regular basis as he spun for me tale after tale from his life, many of which he had never discussed publicly before. I quickly found out that some of his best "sea stories" and personal tales were ones no cruise audience had ever heard.

Working with him over the past 10 months, with Captain Puckett a phone call or email away, I helped to assemble all these stories into a memoir with the same breezy style he brings to his lectures. I think the book will please both those already familiar with his lectures and those who will be introduced to him for the first time by this book.

The book is called, naturally enough, "Captain Puckett: Sea stories of a former Panama Canal pilot." And it's just gone on sale on Amazon as both a 224-page paperback and as a Kindle ebook. We hope to expand distribution to other spots over the next few days.

You can go to Amazon and download a sample of the ebook -- which has the same content as the print version -- and read for yourself a bit from the beginning and check out the table of contents. You can also order the print version. You can ask your local bookstore to order a copy for you, too. Better yet, ask them to stock a bunch of copies, and then tell your friends about it.

Oh, yes, and if you get a chance, book a Disney cruise on the Panama Canal. Since he's lectured on every one of Disney's Panama cruises over the past dozen years or so, there's a good chance you will get to hear the amazing Captain Puckett in person -- and, of course, have him sign a copy of "Captain Puckett."

Bill LaRue


Here's our official news release on the book:

Come along with retired Panama Canal pilot Kenneth P. Puckett as he shares "sea stories" and other personal memories of the kind that have made him a popular lecturer about the canal and other maritime topics. The book, co-authored William D. LaRue, is due to be published by Chestnut Heights Publishing in April 2018.

For 16 years until he retired in 1996, Captain Puckett helped to guide ships through Panama's historic canal on more than 1,400 transits. On these pages of his memoirs, he navigates through tales of his rocky childhood in northern Kentucky; his military adventures in both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army, where he served two tours of Vietnam; and what it was like in Panama in the 1980s as the Central American country fell into chaos under the dictatorship of Manuel Noriega. Captain Puckett also shares what it was like being a maritime pilot on the canal during its turbulent years of transition in ownership from the United States to Panama.

But don't think Captain Puckett didn't have fun along the way. He blends into this autobiography many of his unforgettable anecdotes, such as the time he encountered a "pooping monkey" on a ship's bridge, and how he once pranked a captain into thinking he had plowed his ship through a banana farm.

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