Juneau man to set sail on world voyage

Ex-radio personality plans to take family on trip around globe

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2007

Longtime KINY radio personality Chris Burns has put down the microphone to undertake a new adventure: sailing around the world with his family.

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Sheltered by the 36-foot Wind Dancer, Burns and company plan to depart at noon on June 10, coursing south through the Inside Passage, down the coast to San Diego, westward to Hawaii, then into the watery wilderness of the South Pacific around New Zealand. It's a dream trip expected to last three years. If all goes well, they may continue west around the globe or check out the Mediterranean Sea. If the challenges are unbearable, they'll improvise.

"I've been thinking about it for 30 years," Burns said. "The stars were aligned. This was the time to go."

The whole experience will be shared with the world through Burns' blog at www.burnssail.com. He hopes to connect with Juneau classrooms and host question-and-answer sessions while at sea.

Eighteen months of planning preceded the current stage of the journey, including big steps such as selling his house and many of his possessions. The 59-year-old native of Oregon and his wife, Richelle, also quit their jobs and prepared to home-school their 7-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. After a career pursuing a childhood ambition of being on the radio, Burns ended what he described as "41 years of jabbering."

His last interview on the air with KINY was March 30, for a conversation featuring John Stone, Juneau Port director.

Burns worked in numerous markets in his decades in radio, including a two-year stint with the Armed Forces radio in Panama in the late 1960s, a high-pressure gig in Los Angeles, a small-town post in Wyoming, and a job at KGON, a rock station in Portland. During his years at KINY in Juneau, he improved the Web site and led Capital Chat, a conversation about current events that airs five days a week.

Burns was a dependable employee with an interview style that didn't antagonize people, station owner Dennis Egan said. While many radio employees who came from the Lower 48 left town in about six months, Burns stuck around and got the station heavily involved in the Internet, Egan said.

"I envy him," Egan said. "A bunch of us boaters and former boaters envy him. It's a lifelong dream of a lot of people to do what he and his family are going to do."

A community of friends and listeners will be hosting a party for the Burns family from noon to 6 p.m. on May 26 at Gastineau Elementary School, according to event coordinator David Parish. A fan and friend, Parish is starting a fundraiser for the journey, trying to sell 880 "tokens of gratitude" at $10 a piece.

"What allows Mr. Burns to take a preeminent position as one of Juneau's most notable men in my lifetime is the treasure of Capital Chat and the remarkable, ever-improving Web site," Parish said.

Businesses have taken interest in the adventure as well. Burns' blog is sponsored by Nugget Alaskan Outfitter, Wikipedia and USA.gov.

The son of a hydroplane pilot, Burns was always encouraged to follow his dreams.

"I grew up at 100 mph on the water," he said.

Now his dream is to spend time with his family while exploring new places. They may return to Juneau when they're done, or they might make a home somewhere different, say, Christmas Island.

"I'm going to bungee my snow shovel to the bow," he said. "We're going to go until someone asks me what is that thing on the bow. Then we'll stop."

• Ken Lewis can be reached at ken.lewis@juneauempire.com.

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