Menominee woman takes job on research vessel
Marinette-built ship will depart Sunday on journey
Saturday, July 05, 2014 12:00 AM
MARINETTE — A Menominee woman will serve as a mess attendant on the Sikuliaq Science Research Vessel as it travels through the Panama Canal to waters near Hawaii, Guam and Alaska.
Annie Parcels Kurek cooks tomato sauce on the Sikuliaq Thursday in Marinette. Parcels Kurek will be part of the crew on the science and research vessel that will depart Sunday on a mission that will take it through the Panama Canal to waters near Hawaii, Guam and Alaska.
Annie Parcels Kurek of Menominee completed the required training and has obtained the necessary credentials to join the captain, steward, cook, 20 permanent crew members and 26 scientists on the science research vessel this year.
The Sikuliaq Science Research Vessel was built at Marinette Marine Corp. for the National Science Foundation. The vessel, operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, will depart from Marinette on Sunday.
Parcels Kurek said she thinks the captain was interested in having her join the ship because she is a part of the community and is taking part of it with her.
She said she would be bringing Jasper’s Maple syrup (made in the U.P.) on board.
“Some have been known to say this is a mid-life crisis job. I am really excited to be part of the crew and really appreciate the science they are doing,” she said.
Capt. Mike Hoshlyk said this is a great opportunity for the Menominee resident to get out and see the research vessel side of the world.
“She has the right spirit for the mission,” he said.
Parcels Kurek will be a mess attendant and help take care of the crew throughout the course of the day, which includes helping serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as stocking, reporting and loading. She will be involved in the hotel aspects on the ship.
Parcels Kurek said she found out about the mess attendant job after a few people she knew jokingly said she do this.
“I looked into it in December and it took me four months to get my credentials needed to apply for the job,” she said. “They would not take applications without going through all the training.”
Training and credentials included occupational testing, a federal drug screen, Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC), Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), up to date passport, health screenings, and watch keeping standard training, which included fighting fires, CPR and water survival.
Hoshlyk, with 20 plus years experience, said everyone on the ship has to have Merchant Marine credentials. He said everybody on board has to have the basic understanding of survival, know how to abandon ship and what to do if fires happen as they do on occasion.
“Training helps with that. It’s the whole reason we train. If something were to happen, we have the ability to respond,” he said. “That’s why we do preventative maintenance on the vessel and fix things as they break so it helps keep us safer.”
The ship is docked at the K&K Warehouse in Menominee until it departs on Sunday.
“I was very happy to get on (the ship). I’ve only been there since May, but we just got the boat June 6 and I worked on the ship,” Parcels Kurek said.
Parcels Kurek is contracted for one year and will work 12 hour shifts for three months. She will have one month off every three months.
As a former innkeeper, Parcels Kurek thought this type of job would be the same. Her main job will be to make sure the scientists and crew members are well cared for.
“I will do a lot of dishes. Washing dishes will be my job and making sure my scientists have linens and what they need in their room,” she said. “I will basically keep the galley stocked for the guys.”
Parcels Kurek said she is mostly looking forward to seeing some of the scientists.
“The satisfaction to me is trying to keep a very nice environment for people on the boat,” she said. “Personally, I am also a poet and writer. There will be an amazing amount of things to see that I never dreamed of seeing from the Tropics to the Arctic.”
After leaving Marinette, the science research vessel will travel up across the Great Lakes to Cleveland with the U.S. Coast Guard, then over to the Saint Lawrence Seaway before heading to Montreal and then Massachusetts, picking up scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Then the research vessel will head to the Puerto Rican trench before going to Honolulu and the Panama Canal.
Parcels Kurek said she will get off in Puerto Rico after being on the vessel for 90 days.
The ship will then travel to Hawaii, but it will take about a month to get there.
The Menominee resident said she will get then get back on the ship in Hawaii before its science expeditions and then head to Guam before she takes off another month and then goes back in February to Juneau, Alaska.
The ship will travel above water, but scientists will drop submersible items for testing.
Some worst-case scenarios that could happen at sea include a fire, a collision or a tsunami.
“You are in the ocean, the Arctic. I totally trust our captain. He is a brilliant man,” Parcels Kurek said. “Even though we are doing fire drills and abandon ship drills every few days so we get used to where we need to be and do in case of a fire, my job is make sure all scientists are out of room, evacuated or out of the hospital and secure the galley and make sure people are out.”
Parcels Kurek added abandoning ship means putting on Arctic survival gear to keep from freezing to death.
“There are pretty serious risks, but on deck crew members face elements. There is not much risk of being swept at sea out in the galley,” she said. “On the ship we have our own room and I will share a bathroom with one other.”
Parcels Kurek said besides her group of friends, her parents, Clayton and Marilyn Parcels of Cedar River, are her biggest supporters.
“They were really thrilled. My dad said if he was younger he would want the job. People have been really supportive. It’s very, very dear,” said Parcels Kurek. “The hardest thing is leaving your people behind.”
Marilyn Parcels said although the training and requirements for the job were difficult, she encouraged her daughter to do this.
“First of all, she will see wonderful new places and the science experiments are important for all of us. Although she is not a scientist, she will be part of the crew,” her mother said. “She will really be supportive of what they are doing in their own mind. We will miss her, but we think this is a great opportunity. The rewards are worth it.”
Clayton Parcels agreed.
“We are very happy. She always liked the water and will get to see plenty of it,” he said. “She gets along with everybody so being cooped in a boat won’t be a problem.”
Next year, the research vessel’s trips are scheduled mostly in the western Arctic.