AWESOME PERSON #17 – Meet Tor!
Are you ready for the next greatest adventure? Meet Tor! By far one of the most interesting people I’ve met in my life. Her story is filled with world travels, scuba diving, snowboarding, skiing and even a captain’s license! Read on for the journey of Tor and the exciting opportunities life has given her and those yet to come!
Tor, tell us how you got started with the Global Expeditions Group. Did you grow up with prior boating experience?
Well, my mom and her whole family are from Sweden and growing up we would spend the summers there. My cousins were all really into sailing and our moms would take us out to these sailing camps on little islands out in the Archipelago and leave us there on the island for a week or two. We would camp, sail little Optis (aka- bathtub boats) and attempt to speak Swedish. It was really fun but more of just a summer activity with my cousins. I never really seriously pursued sailing until post-college with Seamester.
It was my sophomore year in college when I was walking out of a sociology class and saw a flyer with a picture of really sweet looking pirate ship on it that said something like, “Come play Pirate and get school credit!” The picture really caught my eye and since all my friends were studying abroad next semester I was looking for some grand adventure too. So I took one of those little tabs that you can mail in for more information. Usually, I would have just stuffed it into the bottom of my book bag and forgotten about it but as I stepped out of the class building, I looked up and saw the campus post office that I’d never noticed before, it was just right across the street. So I walked over and sent it in. Forgetting about it, weeks later I received a whole packet with information on Seamester and numerous amazing photographs that seemed to be the adventure of a lifetime. I called my mom right then and told her I wanted to do this. When she asked how much and I told her she kind of laughed then said if I could find the money myself, I should do it. I thought about saving up or maybe applying for one of the scholarships the company offers. A few weeks later my grandfather ended up passing away and since there are only 3 grandkids on my father’s side, he left us each a little bit of money in his trust. I think my sister ended up buying a car, my cousin put his straight into savings and me? Well, I knew exactly what I was going to do. I signed up for the Fall 2008 Seamester, sailing from Australia to Thailand.
The trip was a truly life changing experience and it really opened up my eyes to the world and what one is capable of in their lifetime. After that trip I was hooked on the ocean and boat life. I knew I had to return in some capacity. I went back after that amazing semester and continued onto graduate from the U of O with a Bachelors degree in Human Physiology. All the while, my mind still on the ocean and the amazing experience I had sailing with Seamester. I knew I wanted to make that lifestyle a reality so went and got my SCUBA diving Instructors Certification here in Oregon and as soon as I graduated, I applied to work at ActionQuest for the summer. I got the job and worked for ActionQuest as a Mate and Dive Instructor for the first two summers. After the second summer they asked me to work full time for Seamester, I graciously accepted. And now here I am almost 4 years later..
What is life like on an 88ft schooner for 8 months!? How many people are on board at a time and do you ever feel caged in? How about the college kids…is it easy to live with them and the crew?
Best way I can describe life on an 88ft schooner for 8 months is productive. During that time we run two Semesters onboard each being 80 days as well as couple of shorter voyages for 20 and 40 days. We sail with 4 staff members and up to 16 students onboard. Students usually range from 18-24 years old, fresh out of high school taking a gap year to students in their last year of college looking to do one last adventure before entering the working world. We teach them how to sail the boat and traditionally navigate successfully from one island to another in the Caribbean through a Student Leadership course that is offered onboard and a Basic Seamanship class. Students also learn how to SCUBA dive and have an opportunity to take dive classes all the way up to their Rescue diver certification and in some cases even their Divemaster. Not only do the students learn how to sail and dive, but they also can enroll in two college level Marine Science courses. Two out of the four staff onboard have their Master’s and teach Oceanography and Marine Biology. Its really cool because the students get to live with their professors and have the opportunity to access unlimited amounts of knowledge and they get to physically experience and live what they are learning about in class. Sometimes they even have their labs underwater diving!
Every single person on board is incremental to the program and vessel operating at an efficient and successful pace. The program is based around teamwork and leadership amongst your peers. Since the boat is classically rigged, we don’t have any power winches so we rely everyone’s efforts (students and staff) to get all the sails up and getting the boat underway daily. We also have a job wheel that we live by on board, everyday you have a different job. One day you could be the skipper-commanding your crew and ensuring the day’s activities run smoothly and the next you could be a deckie – swabbing the deck and rinsing it with fresh water and then next day you could be the head chef cooking a meal for 20 people!
Living with college kids has been interesting and trying at times but it has been one of the best experiences of my life seeing the students change and grow into better and more confident persons over the three months spent onboard. I admit at some points it can be hard to not be able to get away but we are constantly so busy and the amount that we can accomplish in a day between classes, activities and sailing from one island to the next is pretty mind boggling. I’ve never felt so accomplished, tired and happy at the end of each day as I do when I’m on board the boats. I love living each day with a purpose.
What were you doing before you headed out to sea? Had you always been working seasonally?
Before heading out to sea, I was living here in Oregon after graduating college in 2010. First in Eugene for the part of the year, working at a restaurant/bar and then I moved over to Bend in for the winters and started working up at Mt Bachelor teaching skiing and snowboarding to little kids. I love being outside and getting the youth involved in something active on a daily basis is a huge passion of mine.
During your winters or “off seasons” you head to Bend to teach snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor…how did you get into that line of work?
I grew up in a pretty adventurous family on the north coast of California. Every year as a family we would drive up here to Bend, rent a house with a couple other family friends and ski Bachelor for a week. I’ve always loved the mountain lifestyle and being outdoors. Once in college over at U of O I would drive over every weekend during the winter and go snowboarding, I think it was during college that I decided I wanted to move to Bend some day and join all of the outdoor enthusiast’s over here and work a full season as an instructor on the mountain.
Do you get to take time off between jobs and travel/play?
I do get a week or two usually between semesters on the boat to potentially fly home to California and see family but other than that when we don’t have students onboard the boat, we are usually working on boat maintenance projects onboard that are crucial to keeping the boat running smoothly and efficiently. But with that said we are usually anchored in a fun place that after the day’s projects are finished, we can usually go for a swim or snorkel or maybe even dinghy ashore and go for a hike.
During the winters, when I’m in Bend I usually work 4-5 days a week so I do find time to go on plenty of adventures during the 4 months that I’m land based. My friends here in Bend are also pretty adventurous so we usually plan a big ski trip somewhere just to get out of town and ride a new mountain. Last year we sent it up to Whistler, this year we are thinking of heading over to Jackson. Although I’d really like to try and see my family more throughout the year, and its pretty hard being so disconnected, I can’t really complain.
Can you tell us one of your craziest experiences while working on the boat?
Hmmm that’s a hard one, there is always something interesting going on on the boat but I think one of the most intense times I can recall is during a staff delivery. We had just finished up a refit on the boat in Tampa, FL and had to sail the boat back down to its home anchorage in the British Virgin Islands. It took us 12 days total and we had a crew of 6 staff. It must have been on day like 9 or 10 when we hit some pretty strong winds and swells. It was the middle of the night and the swells were straight off our bow and we were sailing as high as we could into the wind. I was off watch and sleeping down below when I heard a huge loud noise and then one of my friends ran down below and called “all hands on deck!” We grabbed our PFD’s and ran up on deck still wearing pajamas in the rain and realized that we had busted two of our shrouds. These are the standing rigging, aka – metal cables that support one of the masts and hold it straight. We had sails up at that point and it was raining and storming pretty hard. We ended up having to fall off the wind a bit to lessen the stress on the rig then drop the sails and proceed to try and sort the problem. Its pretty amazing what you can accomplish with 5 people (one person back in the cockpit helming) as the boat is pitching up and down, its pouring down rain and waves are crashing over the side of the boat. We ended up re-crimping the cables with a couple U bolts and using some bolt cutters to cut a bit of spare chain so we could re attach the shrouds temporarily to the boat. We then had to make a day stop on Grand Turk to finish the repairs during the day and then continue our voyage down to the BVI. In the end, I’ve learned a boat is a boat and there is always going to be something that needs fixing whether its brand new boat or 20 years old.
What are some of your favorite destinations you’ve visited and why?
Favorite places – well for one Bend, Oregon because of all the people and adventures you can find here whether it be hiking, biking, skiing or just exploring the natural beauty of the high desert.
But as far as places I have been to on the boat? I really love the island of Dominica because it’s so green and lush. There is a pretty amazing hike there we do where we go and visit these geothermal vents and jump in hot springs. Oh and there is always really amazing fruit there as well!
I also really love the little islands called Les Saintes, which are right off the coast of the Island known as Guadeloupe in the French West Indies. It’s like being in France with people running around on mopeds carrying baguettes and drinking espressos. But it also has the lazy island life feel to it, which I really dig.
Love/relationships and working seasonally – have you made it work and if so, how?
Love/ relationships? Well for me its pretty non-existent right now, lol. Unless you meet some one that works on the boat with you, its pretty hard to maintain a long distance relationship with spotty cell service and wifi and limited time off. I’ve attempted to do so in the past and it never really worked out. Its hard to maintain a relationship if you’re never together. I know that once I stop moving around so much I’m sure I will meet someone but until then, I am young and now is the time for me to be a bit selfish and do what really makes me happy.
What do your family and friends think of your lifestyle? Do you ever hear criticisms?
I think my family thinks I’m a bit crazy for the lifestyle I lead but I know they are all very proud of me and love to hear about the adventures I find myself apart of. My sister sometimes likes to pester me and says, “Tor, when are you going to get a real job and have like, you know, an actual address?” I just laugh and say “Well, what are you going to send me?” I know that she is proud of me but just wants the best for me. She knows I also probably won’t do this forever and looks forward to the times we will share with our families one day. I do as well 🙂
Future plans…do you have some and if so, what are they?
As far as future plans – last April I went and got my Captain’s license so my immediate goal would be to run one of the Seamester boats as Captain. It would be the absolute ultimate experience to have started as a dive instructor and worked all the way up to captaining the boat and successfully running the program. There is talk of me potentially running the boat this fall actually, so we will see how it works out – keep your fingers crossed!
If you could give out advice to anyone looking to take on a life on the sea or working seasonally, what would you tell them? How does one get their foot in the door with such a cool organization?
I would say just set your goal, don’t lose sight and do whatever it takes to accomplish it. Whether it be getting the right certifications, having the right experience, meeting the right people and being available to going wherever you are needed.
As far as finding the right organizations – Do your research! There are numerous amazing opportunities to do cool things like this but people just haven’t heard of them yet or don’t know what options there are out there for them.
A little more background on the Global Expeditions Group
Global Expeditions Group is like the all-encompassing company, which has three different sectors in it, which are:
– Action Quest (high school summer camps)- they do 3 three week sessions every summer that are based on smaller 50 ft boats that we charter. Each boat will have 10-12 students onboard and 2-3 staff members. For more information on Action Quest, visit http://www.actionquest.com.
– Seamester (College students- semester at sea like experience) – There are two boats within this program, one that circumnavigates the globe called Argo and one that stays in the Caribbean. I have mostly worked on the Caribbean boat called, Ocean Star. For more information on Seamester, visit http://www.seamester.com and perhaps you will embark on a wild adventure too!
– Lifeworks (High school student community service programs) they take place for three weeks during the summers all over the world. Students get a chance to get up to 100 hrs of community service credit towards their high school. For more information on Lifeworks, visit http://www.lifeworks-international.com.
If you know of someone with a great story or you, yourself, have one to share, please email me at living firstname.lastname@example.org. Also – give our Facebook page a like…
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