Tuesday, April 1, 2014

J/70 Quantum Winter Series III

Well, the J/70 just joined my list of things to buy... all I need is some money.

I'm back in Charleston now, after spending last weekend sailing at the J/70 Quantum Winter Series Act 3 hosted by the Davis Island Yacht Club in Tampa Bay, FL. This was my first time sailing the J/70, and I'm pretty thankful to just have had the opportunity of being invited to sail down there. Myself along with fellow C of C Offshore Teammate Stefan were lucky enough to get an all expense paid trip to head down to Tampa to race Jack Martin on his J/70 Exit Strategy II as last minute crew.

Mr. Martin was awesome to sail with- he's 78 years old and still out there blasting around the race course; truly impressive and inspirational. I can only hope that when I get that old I'm still out there racing and having fun. He also lives and keeps the boat in Charleston, so I'm really looking forward to getting out there with him again and having some fun racing around Charleston Harbor.

As for the J/70; definitely a winner. Such a fun yet simple race boat. You can tell from when you first step on her that she's well put together and built to last. The boat takes about 10minutes to rig and get race ready, and the systems are all very basic and simple... But what made her most attractive for me was the lifting keel (perfect to launch at the NYC), the simplicity (not too many parts that will be prone to breakage and replacement), the speed (15kts downwind; no problem), and the competitiveness / size of the class. I want one.

The racing was great. Unfortunately, we only got in one on Saturday as storms were rolling through the area, but that one race saw 20kts and planing reaches- which was a hell of a lot of fun. The RC managed to get 3 in on sunday in 10-12kts, which was ideal for us.
Although we only finished mid-fleet (that first day killed us), we placed better in every race, with a 15 being our high and last finish.

I'm hooked. Get me back in another J/70.

Regatta Preview

What else is going on? Just getting ready for Charleston Race Week... Less than 2 weeks to go! Stay tuned for updates from Team Bahamas.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Harbor Cup. Quantum J70 Winter Series. Charleston Race Week.

Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup:
Well, we're back in Charleston after spending the last half of our spring break out on the West Coast sailing in the LAYC Harbor Cup. I'll be short and honest, as a team we were a bit disappointed with our results. All of us Offshore Cougars (not only those that sailed in LA, but the entire team) have been training hard for this event since we took second overall in 2013, so needless to say it was a bit disappointing to end up 5th /10 in 2014. Honestly, we didn't sail a good event. There's a lot of details I could go into about what all went wrong and what all went right- but that's not necessary. We've reflected a lot on what led to our 5th place finish at this year's Harbor Cup, and as a team we have grown from that. Finishing 5th was a wake up call to our entire Offshore Team, and we've taken notice to what areas need to be improved. It's just a bit saddening for us that this was our last Collegiate event of the Spring... However, we've all got our eyes set on the Fall events (and even the 2015 Harbor Cup). Despite this being our last collegiate event, we've still got Charleston Race Week, PHRF Championships, and a few other local events lined up- so workouts and practice sessions will be as intense as ever. 

Quantum J70 Winter Series:
I am stoked. 2 days ago I was invited by a local Charleston Sailor to crew on a J70 for the Quantum Winter Series set to take place in Tampa at the Davis Island Yacht Club over the weekend of March 29/30, and I just got my tickets via email so it's official. I've never sailed a J70 before, but I'm still extremely excited for this opportunity that literally came out of nowhere. The story behind this is that I had crewed for this guy (David) just about a year ago on an SR-33 (which is an awesome boat), unfortunately I hadn't been able to sail with him since as whenever he needed fill-in crew I was away or on Semester at Sea- but luckily enough he needed crew for this event, so myself and Stefan Kuehn (from the Offshore Team) will be flying down to Tampa to race with these guys! Should be a great regatta, and I can't wait to see what all the J70 hype is all about!

Charleston Race Week:
Team Bahamas is registered! That's right, Chris Sands and I are teaming up to represent the Bahamas and compete in the very competitive J22 class. We both decided that we didn't want to sail in an offshore class (because who wants to wake up at 7am and motor 12nm to get outside the jetties), and instead would prefer to race on an inshore circle. Luckily enough, we were able to secure one of the College's new J22s to use for Race Week (thanks a lot to Director of Sailing Greg Fisher) and we will be sailing under the Bahamian Flag. Now it's time to get serious and get time on the water. Our third crew member will be C of C Offshore Sailor Stefan Kuehn. 
You can read more about this here:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup 2014

LAYC Harbor Cup 2014 Preview Video.
(Skip ahead to 8:30 for yours truly)

LAYC Harbor Cup 2014 Program.

Wednesday we will be headed to Los Angeles; this time we're going for the win.

As many of my readers know, in 2013, the College of Charleston Offshore Sailing Team was invited to the Port of LA Harbor Cup Invitational, where we sailed (as presumed 'underdogs') and clinched second overall; narrowly losing out to Cal Maritime. Last year, this was our first major offshore event, and I was onboard as mainsail trimmer.

Well, now it's 2014 and we're headed back; this time as a Varsity team. We are ready to take the Championship, to win the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup. For those of you that don't know, the Harbor Cup is a collegiate big-boat regatta, sailed in Catalina 37s out of Los Angeles Yacht Club. The regatta is a 3 day event that sees the top 10 offshore teams on the collegiate circuit facing off for the championship. It is the best regatta I've ever sailed in; intense racing with a college atmosphere- it's the perfect mix.

We've been training hard for this event. Now that we are an official C of C Varsity Sport, we have had to adhere to a strict practice and workout schedule- which has been great in getting us prepared. This is our last Collegiate event of the season, and after placing second in our home hosted event (the SCOR) a few weeks ago; we're thirsty for a big win.

This year, I'll be going to Los Angeles as an alternate. I'm not disappointed in this, I understand it's best for the team. To be honest I just feel fortunate enough to have been selected for the LA team in the first place- which has allowed me to be on the practice squad and get time on the water in various positions. I mean, after spending a semester abroad and coming back a bit rusty after not having sailed a big boat in over six months, I was truly pleased to just have been placed on the team... Now it's all about proving myself that I should be a starter on our upcoming Fall 2014 events.

Also, I'll be honest when I say being listed as the alternate has provided me with the opportunity to practice on various positions and get experience figuring out those roles and working with the team. I can say I have a much better understanding of all positions on the boat, and feel confident working most spots when need be.

I'll be sure to send out updates as we sail the regatta, so stay tuned. But for now; I've got a few more days of spring break to enjoy!

Go Cougars!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Back to Reality.

Well, I've been back in Charleston for nearly 3 weeks now.

This will be a short post, just a quick update on how things have been, and will probably be the last post for at least a few weeks.

Being back is definitely weird. Not bad, just weird. It's just how they said it would be, I've gotten back and everyone is pretty much the same- doing the same things, thinking the same way, and seeing the world in the same light as they did 4 months ago. It's just so difficult to 'fit back in' when I've spent the last semester travelling the world, and having a life changing experience. But don't get me wrong, it's been awesome catching up with friends and getting back into the groove of things. And also like they said, everyone is already sick of my, 'this one time when I was at a village in Ghana' or 'I remember in Patagonia when' stories, haha!

Also, just like they said, I have a strong case of wanderlust. Wanderlust is defined as, 'A strong desire to travel.' Yep, all I want to do is keep exploring. For example, on the MLK weekend I managed to convince (through begging) a couple friends to drive 5hrs up to Appalachian Mountain to do some snowboarding. Yea, It may only be 5hrs away... But it's still an adventure in some sense. Sitting around my apartment on a long weekend just seems like a disgustingly terrible idea right now.
Hopefully I can manage to go on a few more road trips this semester as well... We'll see what happens.

The other day I met up with 2 girls from C of C who were also on the SAS Fall 2013 voyage- we had lunch at one of their apartments, and just spent a few hours reminiscing on the whole experience. Mainly talking about how we want nothing more than to be back on the ship... I think we all realized how lucky we are to have each other at the same campus; I'm sure we'll be getting together for lunch again soon.

One of the best parts of being back is now being a member of the C of C Varsity Sailing Team. Yep, I'm officially on the sailing team as part of the Offshore squad. It's been great so far. We've only had one practice since I've been back, but we are scheduled to practice every Monday and Wednesday for the entire semester (and occasionally weekends). Our first event is in 2 weeks, right here in Charleston- with big names such as Coast Guard and Cal Maritime coming down to compete! We also are scheduled to sail the Port of  LA Harbor Cup, and hopefully a couple other events... But being a varsity athlete is great. Team workouts, athlete only study hall, sports medicine trainers, and a bunch of other perks- I'm enjoying it a lot!

Oh yea, In my constant want to travel the world I booked tickets to backpack through Peru for 16 days in May. More details on this to come, but one of my old buddies from Maine and I are going to spend some time high alpine trekking to celebrate his graduation from college.

So that's a quick update on life. Although being back at normal college doesn't compare at all to the Semester at Sea experience- I still need to get these last three semesters done, and I think through some trip planning and running with a few ideas I can manage to at least partially fulfil. my desires to travel and explore. The hardest part for sure has been missing my SAS friends, thankfully we all have ooVoo / facebook / snapchat / imessage and manage to stay in communication... It's been funny hearing everyone's short stories of how readjusting has been weird and difficult. Can't wait until our first reunion!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

36hrs later- Nassau, Bahamas

Well, it's over.

Not much to say in this post, still trying to gather my thoughts and feelings. But so far, we've been off the ship for less than 36hrs, and it definitely feels strange. No one gets it (unless those that have voyaged before), and I don't expect anyone to get it- but leaving a life you've become so accustomed to so quickly is a hard thing. No one understands just how much you as a person can become used to something when you're put into such a small community with no internet, no phone; just you and the people around you- you develop friendships that are stronger and more genuine than any other friendships you've ever had... Then all of a sudden, that way of life is gone- instantly.

Also, reverse culture shock is a real thing. I see things differently now, I won't go into detail but some things that used to make sense just seem pointless or stupid. But on a funnier note, yesterday as we were waiting to get off the ship, we were all sitting around waiting on Brittany to join us (with our cellphones in our laps), when we tried calling her room on the ship phone- she didn't answer; meaning she wasn't there... It took us 10 minutes to realize that we could just call her cell, because we are back in America, and back to having phone service. It's weird how you forget about things. That's just one example of these strange small events that have been happening.

Below is an interesting piece that was written by a past SAS Professor, and was adapted by a kid named Asher Thompson on our voyage. It's long, but it sums everything up perfectly. I'll be writing a post on my feelings and thoughts sometime soon, but for now I just need to re-adjust (and it doesn't help that the MV Explorer is in Nassau starting their next voyage; attached photo)...

The Last Lecture- Robert Fessler; Semester at Sea Spring 2005
Adapted by Asher Thompson; Semester at Sea Fall 2013

Back at the beginning of the voyage some of us talked about the difference between individualism and
collectivism. We had just come on the ship…600 of us…from different backgrounds, different schools,
different religions, different countries…with different interests, different dreams, different hopes, different
plans. And in those first few days we were trying to get our sea legs…and just beginning to get to know
each other. There was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm…mixed with some apprehension about how
the voyage would unfold…about what it would be like to travel around the world with all these strangers.
Look at us now. Shipmates. Friends. Many of us have found ourselves talking to people we never
would have approached at home. Many of us have made friends with people we didn’t know we could be
friends with. Slowly…so slowly that you can’t quite put your finger on when it began to happen…600
individuals became a community. The diversity is still there… maybe even more so than it was at the
start. We are shaved and braided. Beaded and saronged. But we have learned to live with that
diversity. And we have learned to be incredibly accepting and tolerant of each other. Want to shave your
head? Okay. Don’t want to shave your head? That’s okay too. Guy wants to wear a skirt? Doesn’t
bother anyone. Professor wants to wear a skirt. Yeah…whatever.

And it has been more than simply learning to accept the diversity. We have learned to appreciate the
differences…to appreciate what each individual brings to the whole. It takes threads of different colors
and textures to make kente cloth. It takes tiles of different sizes and shapes to make a mosaic. This is a
collective society and each of us has our place in it. Not one of us can be removed without all of us losing
something. Seniors and kids. Staff and students. Family members and crew members. Happy people.
Cranky people. Serious people. Silly people. New Yorkers. Californians. South Americans.
Canadians. Sky divers and poets. Medical students and mystics. Scientists and surfers. Philosophers
and fools. Poker players. Preachers. Atheists. Smokers and weight lifters and drummers and
sunbathers. Each of us belongs here. Not one of us can be removed without all of us losing something.
And we have achieved that in less than 100 days. Learning to look out for each other. Learning to
take care of each other. But most of all, learning to listen to each other. Social scientists have shown
that the only way to break down the walls between people…or between groups of people…is to put them
together in a situation that allows them to get to know each other…to get to see what they have in
common. From the outside, it is too easy to make judgments about those who are different…to hold
stereotypes. Us and them. But when we sit down together, the differences in our values…in our
beliefs…in our assumptions…that looked so divisive from the outside, begin to be seen more as
interesting variations…because we discover that there is so much more that we share.
We have shared a lot on this voyage. Some of it exhilarating. Some of it frightening. Some of it very
funny. Some of it tragic. But all of it…enlightening. And those shared experiences have brought us
together. At the beginning of the voyage we were told we would have many new experiences. Not
one…not ten…not a hundred…but wave after wave of amazing experiences. Too much to process all at
once. Do you have any idea how much we have been through together? How much we have seen and
tasted and touched and smelled?

You now know, more than you have ever known, that you are privileged. Sure, some of you have
more money than others. But each of you has more money than most of the people in the world. More
money…more freedom…more education…more opportunity. You are privileged. And in addition to that,
you now have a global awareness. Don’t buy the myth that one person can’t change things. Whether
you become a CEO or a lawyer or a Peace Corps volunteer doesn’t matter. You are in a position to do
something…and a far better position than you were in three months ago. I don’t care if you spend the rest
of your life in Oklahoma…you will always have a global awareness…an enriched understanding of your
place in the larger whole. Make good use of that…and the voyage will never end.
Find a cause. Something you believe in…and work for it. It doesn’t have to be some big sweeping
world movement. In fact, one of the things we have learned on this voyage is that small local
projects…like Global Mama’s and Pencils of Promise…are often far more effective and productive than
large decisions made high above or far away by people who may have good intentions, but who don’t fully
understand the local implications. It may seem trite to say, “Think globally, act locally”…but small
community-based and community-designed projects work. And small changes are real changes.
We are all in favor of the big things, like World Peace and the abolition of hunger. Those are things
that are easy to believe in, but very difficult to do anything about directly. That’s the reason why people
throw up their hands and say, “One person can’t do anything”. Well, one person can. You can. You’re
smart…you’re free…and you are a lot more independent and confident than you were four months ago.
You have communicated with people from different cultures, different backgrounds and different
languages. You can figure out how to get from here to there in Ghana, just because you want to. You
can bargain with the best of them in Marrakech. You have skills. If you can cross a street in Rio, you can
do anything.

This voyage has been an incredible gift. It has changed you. And now you’re going home. No you’re
not. At least…not to the home that you left in August. When you get off the ship in Ft. Lauderdale, you
are going to know that. You already know it in your head. But when you get off the ship in Ft. Lauderdale
you are going to know it in your bones. You are going to feel it in your skin. The world that you left
behind isn’t there any more.

There is a story that I like to tell about a fish in a fishbowl. There is a way in which a fish swimming
around in a fishbowl knows nothing at all about water. Because water is so much a part of the fish’s life.
It is surrounded by water. It is embedded in water. In that sense, the fish does not really know water. If
you want the fish to really understand water, you have to take the fish out of the fishbowl and say, “Look,
that’s water.” Now…if you put the fish back in…the water never looks the same again. Well, in a certain
sense, we’ve all been taken out of our fishbowls. We have been out of our fishbowl for 4 months. Now
we have to go back.

It may not happen to you immediately. Caught up in the excitement of seeing your friends and your
relatives…it may take a day. Maybe a week. But sooner or later there is going to be a moment. It might
happen to you at the airport. It might happen to you in your hotel room. Maybe not until you get home.
But sooner or later there is going to be a moment when you realize that the world just doesn’t “fit” the way
it fit before.

Many of your friends…even your good friends…are going to seem suddenly, strangely… stupid. You’ll
want to talk about Morocco. And they will say, “Yeah. Right. Sounds great.” And somehow that is just
not going to be enough. And you’ll say, Yes, but I was in Marrakech…let me tell you about the colors and
the smells and the people!” And your friends will say, “Uh huh”. And you will watch their eyes glaze over
as they smile and nod and glance over your shoulder. So you’ll try South Africa. “You know, I was in
South Africa. Cape Town. There’s a giant mountain that back drops the entire city and it’s called Table
Mountain. And let me tell you about the townships! It’s where all the black and colored people were forced
to move during Apartheid, oh and colored isn’t an offensive term there it just refers to the mixed race
population. Oh and Desmond Tutu came on the ship at the end and gave this really moving speech!” And
your friends will say, “Oh.”

And then your friends will suddenly get enthusiastic again when they begin to tell you all the great
things you missed while you were gone. Like that big party…where everyone threw up on each other.
And that really great episode of “Desperate Housewives”. And they will start telling you some of the
lines…and getting excited as they are telling them to you. And you will be crawling out of your skin.
And you’ll say, “But I saw beggars. I saw children begging. Did you know that parents sometimes
actually maim their kids to make them better beggars?” And your friends will say, “Awesome”. And you’ll
know that they don’t get it. In fact, you might even begin to wonder if some of your friends really know
what it means for something to be…awesome. Standing on top of a glacier and seeing it zig zag away
into the mist, that’s awesome. Waking up in a hammock on a small boat chugging up the Amazon River,
that’s awesome. Having dinner in the middle of the desert with a Berber family, that’s awesome. The big
party you missed while you were gone, isn’t.

And you are going to hear yourself sounding pretentious. You won’t feel pretentious, but you are going
to hear yourself sounding pretentious. You know, here on the ship, if you are sitting around with one of
your friends or your roommate and you start a sentence like, “One night in Ghana I was taking a tro tro
back from the slave dungeons in Cape Coast…” That doesn’t sound odd, here. But can’t you just see
your friends back home rolling their eyes? You are going to have to choose between sounding
pretentious…and being silent. And you are going to long to be back here with us…where you can be

And maybe you have a relationship back home. An important one. One that seemed really
comfortable and promising…last August. Oh boy. All those emails you wrote? Or didn’t write? Some of
them maybe feeling a little forced as you wrote them? That relationship might not feel right any more.
Like an old pair of jeans that’s comfortable…but no longer your style. And you think, “I just can’t do this
any more.”

Many of us have become independent on this voyage. Much more genuinely concerned about the
world. About other people. Stronger. Braver. Better than we were last August. And the life that we had
planned for ourselves might not seem big enough any more. You might be thinking about changing
directions. A new major. A new career. Maybe even a new country. Who are you going to talk to? How
are they going to understand?

There are a thousand little ways in which the world is just not going to fit any more. And a thousand
little reminders that it doesn’t fit. Television commercials are going to look really stupid. Houses and cars
are going to be obscenely big. Restrooms are going to be disgustingly sanitary. Salespeople will look at
you like you’re an idiot when you try to bargain. And everybody is going to have so much…stuff.
Even words aren’t going to seem the same. You’ll hear the word, “Lisbon”. Lisbon is a place…it’s not
just a word. St. Petersburg. It all comes back. It’s not just a word any more. How could you possibly
have imagined, back in August, that you would spend the rest of your life getting chills whenever you
thought of the words, “The ship has been cleared” Who else will ever understand that? The world is
never going to be the same again.

So what do you do? Well, I think one of the things you have to do is to forgive your friends. Looking at
the pictures…listening to your stories…it’s not the same as having been there. You know that. You’ve
looked at people’s vacation pictures before. You know that pictures can’t capture the same experience.
They are going to be looking at it and listening to it…you’ve lived it. It has changed you…it hasn’t
changed them. So you have to be a little patient with them… you have to be a little forgiving if they don’t
quite get it. But I think that you can only do that if they are willing to let you be the person you have
become. It is not the places you have been to …and it is not the things that you have done that have to
be shared. It is who you have become that has to be shared. You don’t have to find people who have
been around the world to understand you, but you have to find people to understand you. And if your old
friends won’t let you be the person you have become, make new friends. There are a lot of people out
there. You know those foreign students on your home campus? Those strange people with the
accents? You see them wandering around confused and not knowing what building to go into. Been
there. Done that. Go talk to them.

There are a lot of people out there who can confirm who you are…and who you are becoming. Even if
that is not clear to you now. In many ways, the person you will be six months from now is still developing
right outside of consciousness. You don’t know yet how much you have changed. And you won’t know
for another six months or a year. It isn’t a good idea to make any major life decisions before then. You
might want to…but give yourself some time.

Earlier I suggested that you might want to find a cause…something that you believe in…and work for
it. I think that’s a good idea. But I’m not worried about you. I don’t think that you have to be urged to do
that…you don’t even need to be reminded to do that. I think you are going to have to do that in order to
feel at home. If the world doesn’t fit any more, then you have to create a world for yourself that does fit.
A place where you can feel at home.

I have been on a previous voyage…and gone home. So has Dean Eddy…Dean Nick…
Marjorie…Bill…and some others. We’ve all been taken out of our fishbowls and put back in again. And I
think I can speak for all of them when I say, “Come on in. The water’s fine.”
Thank you.

--   Brent J. Burrows II  Nassau, Bahamas  College of Charleston  Semester at Sea Fall '13