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News & Stories: 2009-10

A summer aboard
September 14, 2009

Megan with her skateThis past summer, Megan Odegaard went home to Washington state.  “I was just planning on spending my summer hanging out in Seattle, seeing my friends, going to my home church, going to Mariners games,” she said.

A senior accounting major at Calvin, Odegaard had landed an accounting internship at Trident Seafoods Corp. She had worked there for three weeks, dealing with boat accounts and comptrollers, when her boss walked into her office and offered her a job as a purser on one of the company’s fishing boats—in Alaska. Three days later, she was en route:

"I took a 747 to Anchorage and then a 25-passenger plane to Dillingham and then a little four-seater to Clark’s Point, and then they picked me up in a truck, drove me out to the dock and picked me up in a skiff,” she recalled.

Out to sea ...

The rest of the summer Odegaard spent at sea aboard the M/V Alaska Packer, a 65-year-old, 314-foot, approximately 4,000-ton fish processing vessel: “It was insane,” she said. The boat traveled through the Bering Sea and into Prince William Sound. “Alaska,” she said, “is just beautiful country.”

As purser, Odegaard was responsible for processing the payroll, handling production reports, shipping reports and contracts (“mates receipts,” she calls them), sending and receiving messages and other clerical chores. “It was pretty much a seven-day-a-week job,” she said. “If the computer crashed in the middle of the night, I had to be up at 2 a.m. to fix it. It was good because it was my first real-life work experience.”

Downtime aboard a fishing boat was also good, Odegaard said, despite the lack of technological diversions: "There’s no TV. There’s no cell phones. There’s no internet access,” she recited. “Just a lot of getting to know everybody.”  She confessed to playing pranks with the other crew members and to sneaking a little exercise when she could. “They let me jump rope on our helicopter pad because I’m a big runner,” she said.

And they processed fish. “We spent, I think, a month up in Bristol Bay because we were processing sockeye,” she said. “You have to really keep up with the sockeye because they keep coming.” Odegaard also did some sport fishing with the crew for halibut, salmon, flounder and rockfish, while waiting for the pink salmon to arrive. “Actually, my very first catch (while) fishing was a 35-pound skate,” she said. "That was pretty tiring to bring up.”

Back on land ...

So habituated was Odegaard to the angling life that when she took a weekend hiatus to attend a wedding in Chicago, she had a hard time adjusting to life on land. “It just felt surreal,” she said.

megan and the Alaska PackerHer return home was even more disorienting. “When I finally got back to Seattle, I slept for 18 hours. I was so tired,” Odegaard said, "There was an adjustment to normal life, standing in line at Starbucks and not knowing how to use my credit card. I forgot my pin number—that kind of thing.”

Calvin business professor Julie Voskuil is unsurprised that Odegaard spent her summer on a fishing boat. "She’s not afraid of doing something new and different,” Voskuil said. “I’m pleased to know that she seized the opportunity. I think it will show future employers a character and a willingness to explore.”

Back at Calvin with a photo album full of Alaska Packer memories, Odegaard is thinking about future employers. She hopes to work in a public accounting firm and perhaps to someday start her own business. 

But she isn’t ruling out another tour aboard a fishing boat. “It was a great trip,” she said.

~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing

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