Cool things with 8

Both the 8 man rowing shell and the quadruple scull. And octopuses

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Our Big Planet is a Little Island

Perspective is a funny thing. When we talk about rowing oceans it can seem daunting and even unattainable. The world is huge.  Really, really big.  Vast.  Massive.  Colossal.  Elephantine. You get the point; to row 3000 miles of this planet’s big open ocean in a boat only 26 feet long is a tall order. As a wise old Chinese guy said a really long time ago; a really long journey begins with a single step. I don’t know if he said anything about the rest of the journey but that first step is then followed by a bunch more steps. Rowing an ocean is the same way, a bunch of strokes piled up over a month or two or three, maybe more, will get a little boat across a big ocean.

If we shift our perspective and think about tsunamis the world gets a lot smaller. Those puppies cover that same expansive ocean in a matter of hours and make the world seem a whole lot more connected. The Pacific Tsunami Warning center has a cool YouTube channel that makes those big oceans feel a lot smaller, and our neighbors on the other side of this space island feel a lot closer. Check out the far reaching effects of the earthquake that shook Chile last week:

You can find other videos on their channel, from historic quakes to the tsunami a few years ago out of Japan.


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A Question of Risk

Professional Climber Alex Honnold does a great job addressing the topic of risk, and how it differs from consequence. As ocean rowers, we face similar questions that must be answered before undertaking an ocean adventure.

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Change of coarse

As with any expedition or other major project things change.  The successes of an expedition, such as rowing an ocean, often boils down to how well the team adapts and adjust to new challenges.  The Salty Vols are currently dealing with our first big one and long story made short, we are postponing our entry in the Great Pacific Race to 2016.

From the start we have made efforts to keep our focus on the spirit and process of the adventure, not on money or commercialization. In this spirit we have not sought out large corporate sponsorship, opting instead to keep our budget tight and to draw funding from ourselves and the community, taking commercial sponsorships preferably in goods or services, not dollar signs.  Some things arouse in the personal lives of part of our team that affected our ability to meet the payment schedule we’d laid out for ourselves. When we came together to discuss where this was going to take us the idea to postpone came up, and we agreed it would give us the best chance of success.

So, we’re plotting a new coarse.  Instead of buying a boat we’ll be building our own.  We’ll have the next 2 years to prepare together, which we’re excited about.  Above all else, we’ll have that time to reach out in the community and share our adventure with more people.  Construction will begin this fall and we hope to have our boat out on the Tennessee River in a city near you next summer.

From: German Federal Archives

Coarse Plotting From: German Federal Archives

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Explore local

One Knoxville group we love is The Legacy Parks Foundation . They do a lot of great things around Knoxville to preserve the outdoors and make enjoying them easy in lots of different ways we love. If you live in Knoxville, or if you’re just visiting, one great way to start exploring what the city has to offer is the Urban Wilderness, a system of 42 miles of multi-use trails just minutes from downtown. Now you can even get a sweet patch.

Here’s how: Start at one of 4 trailheads — Ijams Nature Center, William Hastie Natural Area, Anderson School, or Forks of the River. The trail system features a variety of terrain from rocky outcrops to rolling fields and farmland with trails that range from easy to more difficult. A pocket-sized trail map is available at local shops and at the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center. Printable pdf maps are on the website.


Track your miles trekked on the Trail Checklist Form. Once you’ve completed all the trails, submit the form along with a check or credit card payment of $10 to Legacy Parks Foundation to receive the Urban Wilderness Patch and a certificate. Proceeds benefit the Legacy Parks Foundation.

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Last summer

As my freshman year at the University of Tennessee ended, my planning for the summer had landed me a job working in the Lake Yellowstone Hotel in Yellowstone National Park.

Almost immediately after moving out of my dorm room I found myself driving 2,000 miles to Wyoming where I would  live for three months- working, hiking, climbing, and making some of the best friends I’ve ever had.  My Yellowstone friends and I hiked over 200 miles of trails in Yellowstone and the Tetons during our first two months out West. But, upon the realization of my massive “must hike,” “must try,” and “cannot go home without doing this” lists, two close friends and myself left our jobs to backpack for the final month of our summer.

From spending four days at the International Climbers’ Festival in Lander, WY to hiking Yellowstone and Teton backcountry day after day, our decision to leave our jobs was the best we had ever made. Ramen noodles, Van Camp’s pork and beans, and plain ‘ol rice (cheap tastes good) became our three staples.  Our wanderings had no set schedule, but we were always on the move- hitting campsite after campsite.

Of course, there had to be a highlight of the trip- climbing Grand Teton.  Climbing the Teton was one of the goals that I had set for myself months before I arrived in Wyoming, so standing on top after a day and a half of up up up was by far the most accomplished feeling that I had all summer.  Needless to say after the climb my to-do list for the summer was more than satisfied.

On the Summit of the Grand Teton

On the Summit of the Grand Teton

Now, I’m back at the University of Tennessee and training for the Great Pacific Race.

I have enjoyed the life of full-time Environmental Science student, part-time training athlete more than I can say.  Having a goal such as ours has given me motivation unlike any I have ever felt before.  I am so used to the short-term motivation of working a climbing route for a day or two until I hit that final move, or planning a long hike that I will be done with after twenty or thirty miles.  I’m used to having projects that come and go, immediately moving on to the next thing.

Planning and training for this row is a new kind of challenge for me.  I am preparing for something that is seldom done- especially in this country and even more so at my age (currently 19).  As the weeks go on and we become more physically and mentally prepared for our upcoming adventure, I am becoming increasingly obsessed with the idea of the journey.

It is going to be hellish I’m sure, but I will love it all.  I am no longer working towards that last hold on a rock face, but working towards the last 1000, 500, and the final mile of this epic row.

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We’ve all got to remember to do what makes us tick

We’ve all got to remember to do what makes us tick. To do it daily, unapologetically, and with love. Here’s a cool short video from one of National Geographic’s film makers on doing what he loves, even when it’s not easy.

The team gets asked all the time, “Why do you want to row an ocean?” To most it seems uncomfortable, expensive, difficult, arduous, and generally akin to tourture. In many ways it is.  But the dispite these aspects we want to row an ocean to spend time communing with a part of our planet few will ever get to see, and to do so in a way even fewer will ever experience.  We want to test ourselves and in doing so come to a better understanding of who we are, and we want to risk all that discomfort in exchange for an experience that is truly one-of-a-kind.  In doing so we hope to inspire others to do the same, to do what makes them tick.

two roads-one less traveled
When what motivates us gets hard and we’re forced to fight for it; we all wonder if the path of least resistance may be the way to go, but there’s no reward there. As Robert Frost would say, take the road less travelled, even if it looks like more work.
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