Meet Karynn Marchal from Houston, Texas. Karynn has a Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation and an Associate’s Degree in Maritime Administration from Texas A&M Maritime Academy at Galveston. She has worked on the water for the past 3 years and currently holds a USCG Unlimited Second Mate License.
Karynn has experience on container ships and car carriers, also known as ‘roll-on, roll-off vessels’ (Ro/Ro). At the time of this writing, Karynn is sailing as the second officer (mate), for the first time, on a car-carrier. Her ship recently moved cars between Thailand and Australia. Next, Karynn’s ship is scheduled to move cars from Japan, through the Suez Canal, to Europe.
Not all ships have WiFi connectivity, so connecting with seafarers in the field can be difficult. Fortunately, Women Offshore was able to connect with Karynn online while she was at sea to conduct an interview. Here’s what she shared with us:
Karynn, please start out by briefly describing what your duties are in your current job.
“I am currently Second Officer; a position known as the Navigation Officer. I create all routes and voyage plans for our current schedule, including keeping all navigational bridge equipment up-to-date and running properly. Also, I am the Person-In-Charge (PIC) of a lifeboat for abandon ship drills, including being a part of the fire team on board who is charged for dressing in turn-out gear (fire-fighting gear) for fire drills and emergencies.”
What inspired you to work on the water?
“Funny story, actually. I had absolutely no idea about anything regarding the maritime industry, or really, even what a ‘Maritime Academy’ was when I started my first day at Texas Maritime Academy. I told my dad, “I just don’t want to sit at an office desk my whole life.” He recommended the academy and I went with it on blind faith. It’s crazy to think I had lived in Houston, with a major U.S. port at my back door for my whole life, and had been clueless as to what went on there. It certainly was a rude awakening when I started school, but after the first semester I seemed to do really well in my classes, so I figured I would keep going. That summer was my first sailing experience and I loved every second of it. And from that moment, I have never looked back. (Thanks Dad!) Eight years ago, if you’d have told me this is where I would be today, I would not have believed you for a second!”
Please share a memorable experience you’ve had at sea.
“I have had countless memorable experiences in my short career. I have sailed around the world, visited countless countries, experienced different cultures and all of which has built me up to the person I am today. One of the first memorable experiences for me was my first deep-sea, Third Mate job. I had dealt with traffic, but nothing like Singapore Straits traffic! I was still fairly new and I navigated at the Conn for the entire bulk of the straits. I have done it a few times since, and now it does not seem as significantly taxing on my nerves as it did then. Yet, I remember how happy I was when I was done with that first transit – I felt a sense of pride that I will never forget.”
What motivates you to continue working on the water if it’s a long-term career for you?
“My current goal is to sail as Chief Mate Unlimited. One step at a time is how I’ve been taking it. I believe you need to set goals for yourself, and no one else. I really enjoy what I do, and the experiences I have had. You can never stop learning out here, and it’s exciting to know how much I have yet to learn!”
What challenges have you faced in your career?
“Just like almost every other woman in the industry, you deal with the handful of gender biases. First job post-graduation, I introduced myself to the Captain and got, “Stop talking. I don’t like green Third Mates and I surely don’t like women. You can leave my office now,” as a response. Luckily, I only had to deal with him for two weeks; a rough two weeks. Advice I want to give others from this experience is that you should never, ever have to deal with someone who treated me the way this person did. I was a new Third Mate, needing money and it was my first job; these were all the excuses I was giving myself to just deal with it. If I could go back I wouldn’t have let that keep going the way it did. No woman, man, old, young – whatever you are – should ever have to deal with that in their profession. Know your worth, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
Other than the few situations like that I have learned that most of the time it doesn’t matter who you are. As long as you work hard and do your job, people will respect you and leave you alone, with respect to any negativity directed towards you to the contrary. I am confident enough to say I am pretty decent at what I do and people tend to notice it. Conversely, I tend to have a great time at sea with my crew! We are all a team and we all want to go home safely to our families at the end of our 4-month-day…!”
What do you think can be done in your industry to encourage more women to pursue similar careers?
“Websites, such as Women Offshore, that share stories from the woman who are interviewed, are fantastic ways to get women to pursue similar careers. It’s a new age, and women are showing up in force out here! I have been lucky to meet a few incredible females in my field, and even more through social media. I hope to see the numbers increase!”
Thank you, Karynn, for opening up to Women Offshore to share your career with us. We wish you the best, as you sail your ship around the world. We will follow your career and look forward to writing about you when you become Captain!
Women Offshore is an online organization and resource center for a diverse workforce on the water. Its mission is to shine a light on women in operations, provide resources to foster long-term careers, and share the latest efforts on gender diversity and inclusion in the offshore and maritime industries. Contact Women Offshore today: firstname.lastname@example.org