BANGOR, Maine — While crossing the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge on his way to work at L.L. Bean in Bangor recently, John Feuille of Holden spotted something that amazed him tied to the city dock at the Bangor Waterfront.
It was the 62-foot wooden ferry that Feuille, 67, worked on as a deckhand while living in Long Island, N.Y., more than four decades ago — a vessel that once belonged to the family of his wife, Jacque Zegel, 63.
“Imagine my surprise, crossing the river in Bangor and looking up and seeing a big blue boat that I worked on in 1965 to ’67 — that my wife’s family used to own down in New York. It was really quite amazing,” Feuille said Sunday in an interview on the Bangor Waterfront.
Besides the color, Feuille immediately recognized the profile of the ferry’s distinctive pilothouse.
“When John called, I just couldn’t believe it — and it actually happened to be on what would have been the brother’s birthday who actually owned this boat, so it was pretty special,” Zegel said. She said her brother would have turned 85 on June 24, the day Feuille spotted the familiar ferry.
“As soon as John called, I hopped in my car and came down here and I was so frustrated because there wasn’t anybody to talk to. So I grabbed somebody and had them take a picture of me, and then I wound up calling Bangor Parks and Rec, babbled on to them about how excited I was,” she said. Staff there put her in touch with the current owner.
Originally named the Zee Whiz, the ferry is still painted in the shade of blue known in Long Island as Zee Line blue. Now named the Sebago, the ferry and its sister vessel, originally named the Zee Lion, are owned by Capt. Steve Pagels, owner of Cherryfield-based Downeast Windjammer Cruises.
Zegel said she contacted Pagels, who invited her on a river cruise.
“As I’m standing there talking to Aubin, the captain, this guy walks up who I found out has come here from Colorado for an event in Bangor and he says, ‘This boat looks familiar. It looks like a boat that I used to see when I was on the bay when I worked for Fire Island Ferries.’ And it turns out that he worked across the street from me for three summers down on Long Island,” Zegel said.
“There’s a Maine connection here with this whole boat community,” Feuille added.
“Apparently Aubin emailed the owner and said, ‘What is it, does everybody who used to work for Fire Island Ferries retire up in Maine?’” Zegel said. “So it’s just been amazing.”
Not long after that, Pagels allowed the couple to come aboard to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
“We got married four years ago on sand from Fire Island, which is where this boat used to come from, and we had a private celebration. It’s been interesting,” Zegel said, later adding, “It’s so surreal. I mean, I’ve known this boat for 49 years.”
Feuille and Zegel first met in the 1960s, when they both worked for her father, Snyde Zegel, a former rumrunner, and her four older brothers, who had a fleet of ferries called Zee Line Ferry that carried passengers from Bay Shore, Long Island, to Seaview and Ocean Bay Park, Long Island.
Celebrities and public figures sometimes were among the passengers — actress Carol Channing, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., magician and escape artist Doug Henning, composer and lyricist Charles Strouse and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk among them, Zegel.
He worked as a deckhand while in college and she worked in the ticket booth.
“She was the boss’s daughter. We weren’t in any kind of relationship at that time but then we reconnected in 2000. I had always had a good relationship with the family so I came out to see the family,” Feuille said. The two apparently clicked.
“And now here we are in Maine, which is a great place to live. There’s more people in Suffolk County [New York], where we used to live and work,” he said.
“This boat was the first that my family actually had built rather than buying. She was built in 1964 and her sister, who was called the Zee Lion, was built in ’66,” Zegel said. She said Pagels told her that the Zee Lion will be plying the waters between Winter Harbor and Bar Harbor.
The last time Zegel saw Feuille before they reconnected was in late August 1967, when she visited him at the hospital after a motorcycle accident put him in a full body cast.
Afterward, Zegel left Long Island to attend the University of Maine, and fell in love with the Pine Tree State and the friends she made here. She has lived here ever since, with the exception of a few years back home in Long Island to take care of her mother.
Meanwhile, Feuille took off for Europe with his then-girlfriend. The two migrated farther and farther east until the they ended their relationship. Feuille, who went on to to such exotic locales as Nepal and India, then became a Buddhist monk for 25 years.
“We reconnected on the Internet in the mid-’90s,” Zegel said. She wrote a letter to him and mailed it to his sister in Washington, D.C., who sent it along to Feuille.
“And then I got an email from him in January of 2000 saying that he had renounced his vows and was coming back to the states for a visit [in July of that year] and that he just wanted to come back and have dinner with family,” Zegel said.
She said the next day, the two spent a day at the beach on Fire Island.
“Nine years to the day after that, we got married on sand that I had shipped in from Fire Island,” she said. The wedding took place at the end of the dock at their camp at Brewer Lake. There were just the two of them, two witnesses and a notary public on hand.
“She’s very romantic,” Feuille said of his bride.