Among the last of its kind, the American Victory spent most of its life as a merchant ship ferrying goods and personnel to far-flung war zones across the globe. It was christened near the end of World War II and served honorably during military conflicts in Korea and Vietnam before eventually -- like so many people of the same age -- retiring and moving to Florida. It arrived in Tampa Bay in 2000 and has found a new life as a museum dedicated to generations of military veterans.
Time takes its toll, and that's where Army veteran Anthea Onufrak comes in. As the ship's bosun (boatswain, if you're a purist), she oversees the daily tasks of maintaining the vessel inside and out, shepherding a crew of volunteers -- many veterans themselves -- to keep the American Victory ship-shape and Bristol fashion.
Where are you from? Saugatuck, Michigan
Tell me about your job. What do you do there? It changes on a daily basis, so a little bit of everything - cleaning, organizing projects, coordinating volunteers, painting, pouring cement, prepare for holiday events such as our Halloween attraction - Undead In The Water. Every day is a new adventure. I have learned so much from our crew.
What’s something people don’t know about your job? Typically people don’t know a Bosun is. It’s short for Boatswain is the senior-most rate of the deck department and supervises the other members of the ship’s deck department. Mr Gary Brooks our Chaplain/Docent calls me the foreman, which explains it well. I locate issues/projects, ensure we have necessary supplies/resources, then assign a crew member or members to complete the work.
What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you on the job? We’re a close-knit crew and have to have thick skin around here. There is a lot of teasing and inside jokes. Funny stuff happens all the time but others wouldn’t see it as funny. However, exciting things happen daily…. some of the most exciting things have been climbing the smoke stack/mast for maintenance and crawling in the boiler to assist engineers. Meeting relatives of past crew members is always fun.
What do you recommend your visitors do for fun when they come to Tampa Bay? Well of course to visit the American Victory, visit our beaches, eat local seafood and of course try a Cuban sandwich.
What do you do for fun or hobby? I love the beach, spending time with my husband and son, and -- believe it or not -- being the American Victory.
Who’s your hero and why? Our Veterans are my heroes especially our WWII and Korean War Veterans.
How would your life be different without tourism? I grew up in a tourist down so I really don’t know, I’m so used to it.