If you are looking for Steve Burchik on a Wednesday evening, chances are that you'll find him down on J-dock, getting ready to teach keelboat lessons for the Cal Sailing Club (CSC). He's also a regular volunteer for the Open House and Youth Ride events.
Steve moved to the Bay area in 1978 for a job, and hasn't left since. Apart from his dedication to helping out at CSC, he is known for promoting the use of safety whistles: during a keelboat study group class, he brought a shopping bag full of plastic whistles to distribute among aspiring senior skippers. Steve especially values the diversity and depth among the ranks of CSC members.
He took a break from the tiller to answer a few of our questions:
How did you hear about CSC and when did you join?
I first heard about CSC from my son. He suggested a family picnic in Berkeley and had heard about the Open House. He thought I might enjoy an opportunity to go sailing. I had an exhilarating sail in a dinghy, got soaking wet and immediately walked over to the club house and signed up in April 2007. During my first year of sailing, I kept a simple log each time I went sailing. I just checked it to confirm the dates and was surprised to see that Todd Price was the Skipper on my introductory sail. Our paths would cross many times in the ensuing years.
[Editor's note: Todd Price was a very active and well-known CSC member who passed away in 2012.]
What motivates you to help out so much?
The motivation is simple, I like to sail, whether it's me at the tiller or someone else. The Club provides an amazing resource: almost-free boats and instruction in one of the best sailing venues in the world. My only regret is that I didn't search out CSC when I moved to the Bay area more than thirty years ago.
What is the most terrifying moment you've had on the water?
My most terrifying moment came during a cruise to Pier 1 1/2 last summer. I was following another keelboat that had set up the cruise. The forecast was modest, with winds of 15 to 20 knots. The winds picked up and we reefed the main and were still having difficulty getting past the Berkeley Pier. I radioed the other boat and said that we were turning back and heading to Chevy's in Emeryville. We made it to Emeryville comfortably and had a great lunch. Some of the crew got a ride from a friend so three of us sailed the keelboat back to J-dock. The wind seemed stronger, but we were making progress although the seas were challenging. As we approached the Berkeley Marina, our jib ripped in half, but we did finally dock the boat without any injury to crew or the boat (other than the jib). The next day one of the crew sent out an email stating that the winds in the lee of Alcatraz during the mid-afternoon were 30 to 35 knots with gusts of 45 knots.
What do you like to do when you aren't sailing or helping out at CSC?
When I am not sailing, I pursue photography and writing. I have just finished a book based on my experiences in Vietnam with an infantry unit. The book is being edited and should be published in the next few months. The book is the result of my photography hobby. It started last spring when a high school English teacher asked me to show some of my Vietnam photos to two of her advanced English classes. She has developed a semester program based on war and uses books such as "Red Badge of Courage" and "All Quiet on the Western Front" to tie in war-related stories with serious analysis and discussion of the literary works and the probable effects on real people at that time or the present.
A few weeks later someone asked me to make a presentation to a group in Berkeley by presenting some of the pictures I had taken. My pictures were half slides and half black & white photos. I proceeded to scan all the slides and negatives and was surprised to learn that I had more than 4,000 photos. The presentation went well and someone asked if I was writing a book. I realized that if I simply wrote a ten word caption for each image, I would have more than 40,000 words. So the writing began in the summer and I've just finished it.