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Maid of the Mist pilot ready to disembark after 32 years Tour boat captain is looking to do something different

Tourists on the deck of the Maid of the Mist get wetter the closer the boat inches to the Horseshoe Falls. There's a cold wind blowing.

But it's warm and dry in the wheelhouse. Captain Richard Schuyler has spent 32 years there, piloting Maid of the Mist tour boats.

"I like my job, but I've been down here half my life," he said this week, as he steered the fleet's flagship vessel toward the wall of water. "It's time to do something different."

Schuyler, 65, will make his last trip Tuesday, when the tour boat season shuts down for the winter. The last boat will leave the Canadian side at 4:37 p.m.

One of the four mates will move up to take his place as captain, said Christopher M. Glynn, president of the Maid of the Mist Corp. "Everybody moves up," he said.

Meanwhile, Schuyler, who worked 12-hour days during the peak summer season, will kick back in his Niagara Falls, Ont., home with his wife, Tena, a retired medical technician. While not going into details, he said he has been paid well and will now receive a good pension. He'll also have more time to spend with his grown children, Candee, a manager at the Sheraton Hotel here, and Gregory, a sound technician in Vancouver, B.C.

"I'm very good at doing nothing," Schuyler said.

Come on, he was asked, what are you really going to do?

"OK, I'll tell you," he said. "I'm going to get the best cedar money can buy, and I'm going to build a canoe."

Schuyler had a colorful career before joining the Maid of the Mist. He was born in Fort Erie, Ont., and went from polishing jelly beans in a London, Ont., candy factory to working for Kellogg's to delivering television sets.
After a three-year stint in the Canadian Army, he went to work in an automobile plant and then landed a job with Canada Steamship Lines, sailing the Great Lakes for six years. He got his Minor Waters ticket but didn't have time to study for a second mate's ticket, so he asked the examiner where he could get a job with his certification.

Maid of the Mist, he was told.
Schuyler signed on as a mate in May of 1974.
"I didn't think I'd be here this long," he said.

Some famous people have shared the wheelhouse with him over the years, including Tennessee Ernie Ford, and, most recently, Regis Philbin. Two nice guys, he said, but Schuyler's favorite wheelhouse guest was Princess Diana, during her visit here in 1991.

"She was a classy lady," he said.

Schuyler became a captain in 1989 and retires as a senior captain.

"Dick is a wonderful guy," said Glynn, who has known him since his summer job days. "He's as reliable as the sun coming up every morning. We're going to miss him."

A retirement party will be held for Schuyler on Nov. 2 in the Doubletree Resort in the city.

Tim Ruddy, the company's vice president of marketing, also has known Schuyler since working there as a 16-year-old student.

"He's a unique personality," Ruddy said. "He's always smiling."

Schuyler is smiling as the flagship plows into the heavy mist. Wet and windblown tourists in the trademark blue ponchos squeal with joy at the awesome sight of the falls. About 100 yards from the wall of water, Schuyler presses down hard on the throttle and turns the wheel left in a tight U-turn that appears to barely miss the roaring waterfall.

"Yeah," he admits, "I will miss this."

e-mail: bmichelmore@buffnews.com

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