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Former chief stew, instructor Carrie Lynn Kurka dies

By Dorie Cox

Former Chief Stew Carrie Lynn Kurka died on Dec. 11 in Soldotna, Alaska. The cause of her death is described by the family as personal illness. She was 41.

Ms. Kurka was born in Soldotna, the youngest of seven children, and attended high school in Port Townsend, Wash. She began her two-decade career in yachting in 1994 as deck/stew on M/Y Christina, the yacht her brother Capt. Mark Kurka ran.

“I was her first captain and she was 19,” her brother said. He said her four years on the yacht, based out of Mississippi, launched her career onto other yachts.

In 2002, Ms. Kurka worked on M/Y Roxanna and met former husband, Capt. Ian Westman.

Former Chief Stew Carrie Lynn Kurka was an instructor of interior courses at ICT (now Bluewater Crew Training) in Ft. Lauderdale in 2014. PHOTO FROM BLUEWATER

“I was deck and she was chief stew,” Capt. Westman said. “It was my first big boat.”

He said people were drawn to her warmth, her inviting appearance and most importantly her big smile.

“Guests loved her, no one was too much effort,” he said. “She made time for everyone, often at her own expense.”

The couple worked together on other boats, including motoryachts Areti, Loretta Anne, Triple Seven and Blue Moon.

The couple always worked on tight-knit, private yachts.

“We liked developing a relationship with a family,” he said. “It was her nature more than mine; she was totally vested into the owners, the family, their kids and the guests. … Carrie was so good at what she did. She was old school and everyone felt welcome.”

Ms. Kurka shared those skills as an instructor of interior courses for entry-level stews in 2014 and 2015, said Amilee Luke, chief operations officer at Bluewater Crew Training USA (formerly ICT) in Ft. Lauderdale. Ms. Kurka also worked in the administration office at the school.

”Carrie could light up any room she walked into with her contagious smile and warm heart,” Luke said. “She was such a beautiful person, inside and out, and it was a blessing and honor to work with her.”

Ms. Kurka most recently had moved back to Soldotna where she worked in a real estate office with the Ross Baxter Group. Realtor Ross Baxter met Ms. Kurka early this year when he showed her homes for sale.

“I enjoyed meeting them and found a home for her and her dad; she was going to care for him,” Baxter said. He said he was impressed with Ms. Kurka and hired her as his assistant. He said she was close to passing the real estate exam.

“She talked about yachting, she loved it,” he said. “However, at 40, she said that yachting was a younger person’s game.

Former Chief Stew Carrie Lynn Kurka. September 16, 1975 – December 11, 2016. PHOTO FROM FACEBOOK

“Carrie wanted to get new sense of community in one place,” Baxter said. “Her dream, through real estate, was to buy property for horses. She loved horses.

“She was so much joy with that big smile,” he said. “She didn’t meet a stranger. And there was not a person she didn’t affect positively.”

When she was first hired, Baxter said they needed a good photo of her for business cards.

Capt. Mark Kurka and his sister, former Chief Stew Carrie Lynn Kurka working on M/Y Christina circa 1994. PHOTO PROVIDED

“We pulled over by a pure white snowbank,” he recalled. Instead of a studio backdrop, she had to take her warm coat off on a freezing day for the photo, he said.

“She was always such a good sport,” Baxter said.

Ms. Kurka is survived by three brothers, Mark, Mike and her twin Chris; and three sisters, Teresa, Marilyn, and Annie. Her parents preceded her in death; her mother in August 2015 and her father in May.

Family and friends held a memorial on Dec. 18 and Ms. Kurka has been buried. The family suggests that contributions be made to a charity of choice.

“Or perform a random act of service,” Capt. Kurka said. “I would like to see people do that.”

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About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

View all posts by Dorie Cox →

12 thoughts on “Former chief stew, instructor Carrie Lynn Kurka dies

  1. Capt. Al

    All the best to her family and i am very sorry for all your Loss. I know that She was a great Person to represent our Industry.

  2. Teresa Kurka

    Thank you for your kindness and friendship of my beloved sister, Carrie. Her passing has left another huge hole in my heart. It gives some comfort to know she was part of such a close knit and caring group of people in the yachting community. Thank you for giving her such a lovely send off.

  3. Michael Joyce

    Wow, what a great obituary. In only a handful of words, you realize how special she was. People like Carrie are what makes this industry fun to be a part of. Big loss and so young. I’ll remember her in my prayers.

  4. Peter Paul Kaputsos

    I am so sorry to hear this. My condolences to Carrie Lynn’s entire family.

  5. Chris Andreason

    It’s a sad day to read this…Carrie was one of those people who you would fall in love with immediately on meeting her. Her infectious smile and gentle nature will be genuinely missed. My wife Bea and I are truly sad to see this news and are glad to have known her. Our most sincere condolences to her family and close friends who like us will be mourning her passing.

  6. Paul and Kerry Lyons

    We were crewmates on the old Princess Marla, 130 Amels. She was not afraid to dive into a sink full of dishes, during full on charter and still have fun. We saw her last in 2014, at the DEMA (Estate Managers) Christmas party. Carrie looked and sounded great. All smiles as usual. We lost her too soon. Deepest sympathy to the family.

  7. Jon Feldman

    Carrie was passionate about her work, who she worked for, and to whom she worked with. Her endless can do attitude was refreshing and also inspiring for all. She truly bettered all that knew her, and will always be cherished! My sincere condolences to Carrie’s family. Rest in Kurkagirl

  8. Adrian McCourt

    Carrie brought sunshine into so many lives and had that gift of making everyone she met feel special. So bloody sad to lose her. Thoughts with Ian, family and friends.

  9. Paula James

    Truly enjoyed meeting Carrie and she was wonderful with my clients. My prayers of comfort go out to her family and friends. She is in our hearts and mind with fond memories.

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