Written by Candy Yan
The sailing journey was more than an adventure, it was a cultural journey.
- Steve Burton
Steve Burton and his wife Lou visited Outward Bound Hong Kong after 20 years since they had left in 1998. “I have to make sure our first stop is Outward Bound Hong Kong!” said the couple, excitedly. Steve served as the Chief Officer of OBHK 40 meters sailing vessel --- Ji Fung from 1995 to 1998.
The vessel for adventure training was named Ji Fung, which means "spirit of resolution". She started her inaugural voyage and left Hong Kong waters for Manila in 1981. Donated by The Hong Kong Jockey Club with a fund of HK$5.5 million, Ji Fung was operated by Outward Bound which aimed to offer character training and development among the young. During her time with Outward Bound, Ji Fung took hundreds of young people on voyages of self-discovery. She made six overseas voyages each year to various destinations including Hainan, Brunei, Malaysia, Japan and the Philippines. After many years of excellent service, she left Hong Kong for Dubai in 2002.
I was the Chief Officer, second in command of Ji Fung from 1995 - 1998.
My role on board was mainly training. Apart from working with the captain and sailing the ship, we worked 4 hours on and 4 hours off. I was in charge of the ship for 24 hours and it was quite demanding. In addition, I ran a training programme and made sure all the trainees did all the proper safety work before embarking on a voyage. I also taught them skills about sailing, explained how sails work and the dynamics of sailing a ship. I felt that it was an important thing for local people who had no experience of sailing. They should know how ship sails and what makes it go. Usually, it is the wind to power rather than the engine.
Probably 5 or 6 each year and most of the sailing journeys ranged from 3 weeks to 9 weeks. In the old days, we sailed to the Philippines, Malaysia, Osaka, and Okinawa. Trainees would go ashore on the islands and do activities. The following days were the expedition itself, which included kayaking, rafting, trekking, and Solo. Besides overseas sailing courses, we had sailing courses for school children in the local waters. We also ran training with the Hong Kong Police Force and some corporate companies like Shangri-la. Wong Wan Chau (Outward Bound base) was a good place for running sailing courses. The trainees did not only have their training on board but the Wong Wan Chau base, which is a fantastic remote area giving them a landing place to do several outdoor activities like rafting and kayaking.
Definitely Osaka. Because it was a sailing race. Since it was the handover year (1997), we had lots of ships to commemorate it. Different ships from all over the world joined us in the journey, including Mexico, Colombia, Russia, Poland, and Oman. Big and massive sailing ships gathered in the harbours and Ji Fung looked like a bath toy!
A big parade was held at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. All the ships gathered around there. There were lots of activities on the ships and everyone was excited. Those ships were big and there were lots of people on board. Crew size was 32 people on Ji Fung (50 was the maximum number of people allowed on board).
After the big celebration and warm welcome in Hong Kong, we then set off from the Victoria Harbour and sailed to Okinawa. Kagoshima was one of the stops in the journey. We also received a warm welcome from the locals in Kagoshima. It was a superb hospitality. Later on, we sailed back to Osaka and again, parades were everywhere and we celebrated the achievements of the sailing groups together - awe-inspiring. We constructed a Chinese dragon made with the blue and white plastic bags and waved it on the streets as we that costume represented the Chinese culture. The locals were super friendly, they even helped us do the laundry (we wore the same clothes for weeks!) It was an experience of cooperation, friendliness, and cultural exchange. Those were absolutely amazing weeks!
I always think sailing help people develop trust, teamwork, resilience, and step out of the comfort zone. On a sailing boat, participants have to work closely with each other. They learn together and understand more about themselves. Everyone learns and even I learn too. Every time I went out, I experienced new things and saw new challenges. It is a good way to understand humans from different cultures. People feel lost and frightened when they try something new, but after a few attempts, they will realise there are more in them than they know and can conquer the fear easily. Most importantly, sailing journey helps to build trust between people. Trusting each other is a huge part of it, and the bonds they make in their groups are incalculable. A lot of trainees came back with achievement after the sailing courses, that was really impressive!