Rowing a boat gently down a stream, merrily, merrily merrily, makes life seem but a dream. But what about rowing a boat hard across the sea? It’s a question Bosnian war veteran and recent trans-Atlantic rower Bryan Fuller of Hamilton can answer well.
Miraculous and painful are two words that figure into his not so simple answer.
“It’s kind of a strange story,” said Fuller about how he came to muscle a rowboat from the Canary Islands to Barbados as a member of an eight-man team.
It all began on a day like any other at the gym. Like so many in these rough economic times, Fuller was out of a job. Like some, instead of TV, Fuller’s favored diversion was a solid workout.
“That day the machine I usually used, and most of the others was taken so I went to the rowing machine,” Fuller explained about how he got his first taste of what quickly became his passion.
In fact, one thing rapidly led to another like a small craft caught in a current. Fuller acquired a rowing machine and, upon first mention of a rowing competition, signed up.
From then on all indicators pointed to the inevitable. News came of a boat named the Sara G crossing the Atlantic from Morocco to Barbados in a record-breaking 33 days, 21 hours and 46 minutes at an average speed of 3.9 knots. In a flash, Fuller’s mind had a new fixation.
“That’s when I got the idea that I wanted to (row the Atlantic) in two to three years," he said.
Certainly the idea was borne of Fuller’s competitive spirit but it was also borne of Fuller’s desire to better the lives of veterans.
Sara G launched from Morocco in January and landed in Barbados in February 2011.
Then, as luck or fate would have it, when September arrived Fuller got his wish years ahead of schedule. Englishman Simon Chaulk, said to be the world’s most experienced ocean rower, invited him to join his crew - Team Titan - in the trans-Atlantic Woodvale Challenge. After a pause to check in with his fiancé and parents, Fuller signed on.
For Team Titan captain Chaulk, the purpose of the crossing was to earn the honor of the fastest manpowered Atlantic crossing. Fuller shared this goal but was also driven by another - to get more veterans involved in the sport of rowing.
As a member of Team Titan, Fuller was responsible for contributing $25,000 to cover the cost of the effort. But in accepting this responsibility, he decided that he would up the ante by raising additional money to fund a veterans rowing program at Community Rowing Inc. in Brighton.
“Chris Obusek, the program director, thought it was a great idea,” said Fuller adding, “Her husband and son are vets.
”Buoyed by the support of Obusek, others at Community Boating, family and friends, Fuller eventually raised $32,000, $7,000 of which went directly to veterans rowing.
Asked what, if anything, about his military experience prepared him for the Atlantic crossing, Fuller answered.
“We call it hurry up and wait," he said "(As soldiers) we’ll run to everything and then sit around for hours. I developed an ability to be patient. Thirty-four days (of rowing at sea) you can certainly handle.
”Fuller was named Huffinton Post's Greatest Person of the Day on April 25. 2012