First Days Back in Port

After 21 days at sea, almost to the minute, the crew of Stay Gold has made landfall. Now, a few days later we have dispersed from the island to all parts of the world. Less than 100 hours ago we were prepping to make our arrival, still with salt in our eyes, wind in our hair and the sea in our hearts.
Coming home from sea is a strange transition. You’d think it’s the opposite of leaving life on land to a life beating to the rhythm of the ocean but it’s different – at least for me. After a decent period at sea, you become accustomed to your new reality. You learn to lean into it. To trust it. To enjoy it. It becomes warm and inviting, safe. The boat is not only your home but your best friend. It’s easy to see why sailors of the ancient times referred to ships in the feminine form – something we still do. It’s because you grow fond of them. To love them. Look at them with affection. It might sound strange at first, but when you’re 1000 miles from land in any direction it becomes clear.
Knowing landfall is approaching causes the ship to take on a different vibe. Talk shifts to what we will do when we hit port, what we will eat, drink. Concerns become land based, a mental aspect of shifting from sea-going to land-bound. Part of the transition. At first, I resist it. Then it takes hold and I long to see my family and eat a decent meal. It’s not instantaneous though. For a week or so after getting back from sea I still feel like I’m in transition, but soon it passes. Very strange.
We hit port after a rough day and half passing through some restricted channels between Molokai, Lanai and Maui. The winds were compressed and contemptuous. The swells were frustrating and the wind waves pushed us around. Beau had to fight 30 foot breaking swells off Molokai and I had 35 knot gusts of wind pushing to boat to over 10 knots of sustained boat speed – but we made it. We hand steered 2500 nautical miles all the way across the Pacific.
We were towed into Pearl Harbor by Michael of Vessel Assist who did a bang up job of getting us into port. We had to be towed because I made some very simple, easy to fix mistakes (always do your maintenance on your batteries and ALWAYS have the proper fuel filters on board!). I’ve learned so many lessons, but feel free to learn these from me – maintenance is CRUCIAL. Even for your car. I’ll write more about those later.
After hitting the dock we were welcomed be an awesome welcome home party, put together by my wife Ashley. Family flew in from all over to welcome us – very heart warming. It’s bittersweet when an adventure comes to a close, but Willy, Chris, Beau and I have taken and given so much of this experience that even a book wouldn’t cover it all. And that’s quite ok. Some of what happened out there will always remain between the four of us. Maybe a book will arise…we will see.
For the foreseeable future, the crew of Team Stay Gold is going to tend to family and career obligations but will be back soon with a new adventure. I’ll be writing more, as I can, to fill in some details of this story, so stay tuned.
We do want to thank Chief Phil Ryder, USCG ret, for his wonderfully colorful updates on Tropical Storms Fernanda and Greg along with his musings on life at sea from the East Coast. Also, thank you to Erica and Rich at Rainbow Bay Marina for helping us get sorted out upon arrival and during the trip. A hearty thank you to Eric for helping Ashley work out logistical details for the Homecoming Party and making her feel like part of the Navy Ohana. And, as always, thank you to our families for always supporting our dreams.
A VERY special thank you to Ashley for organizing a Bon Voyage and Homecoming Party, in two separate states. Ashley was also our outstanding Public Relations coordinator who worked with the Navy, multiple news outlets and other entities in Washington and Hawaii. She ran the Facebook page and talked on our behalf to families and others while we couldn’t. This expedition wouldn’t have happened without her tremendous support and self-sacrifice of time and energy. She’s the heartbeat of the team and we love her endlessly for it.
Finally, a special thank you, to you, dear reader. As much a part of the team as we are, you gave this voyage an extra depth that wouldn’t exist if we kept our adventures to ourselves. Thank you for following along, liking, commenting, sharing and providing encouragement. We hope you have been changed a bit, like we have, from the experience.
Again, please stay tuned as we have just begun. Until then, Stay Gold
<3,
Brian, Willy, Chris and Beau

Land Ho!

At 10:06am, Hawaii Standard Time, Team Stay Gold spotted Maui forward of her port beam! We are getting close!

New plan is to take the Pailolo Channel to the south side of Molokai, then continue our transit west, keeping north of Lanai.

The weather forecast for today showed a small high pressure system just north of Molokai and we didn’t want to get stuck in that.

We should be in the marina around 3 or 4am!

Big Island to the South!

We are just about at the same longitude as the eastern edge of the Big Island! That’s pretty much Hawaiian waters, right?!

The wind is a bit lighter today so we are not making such great progress. We will most likely arrive tomorrow very late, maybe around midnight.

Everyone is having fun, enjoying the last bit of this experience. No sight of land just yet. It will most likely be Molokai first thing tomorrow morning.

See you soon Hawaii!

Friendships Are The Best Ships

I woke up this morning, after taking a short nap after my 0400-0600 watch and went topside to check things out. It smelled like Hawaii…we are still 250 miles away, but the ocean looks and smells like the ocean near Hawaii.

And yes, the Pacific looks different depending on what latitude you’re on. Lots of different personalities.

It’s been hot the past few days. Today was gnarly. 88 degrees Fahrenheit with 85% humidity. Fortunately, no major sunburns or anything of that nature. Beau got a bit toasty on his back.

Our navigation calculations show us arriving around 8pm on July 26th. Trying to make it a bit faster, so we can come in during the day.

This is the last 48 hours of our epic journey. As much as we are all looking forward to getting a shower, good nights sleep, a couple brews and some time with family, it’ll be bittersweet to have it be over.

The days leading up to pulling into port are always filled with anticipation and longing for the simple pleasures we don’t get out here, but there is an adjustment to life on land just like an adjustment to life at sea. This has become our reality out here. We stand watch. We sleep. Eat. Fix the boat. Plan the passage then stand more watch. It’s simple. Now we are already in the process of mentally preparing for adjusting to life on land. Talks turn not to sea stories or other general bullshitting, but to what we are looking forward to doing, eating, drinking etc.

We are all subconsciously preparing to become temporary landlubbers again. Until the next adventure.

The current plan is to sail to the north shore of Molokai, transit west until we hit the Molokai Channel then head south west to Oahu and our rendezvous point with the tow vessel.

If you’re on the island of Oahu, you can see us transiting Molokai Channel on July 26th – probably around 4pm HST.

Thank you all for being a part of this awesome adventure with us!

Until then…Stay Gold

Recommend a Good Tattoo Shop in Honolulu!

Wow…what a few days! We are closing in on the 300 mile mark quick! The remnants of Tropical Storm Fernanda are giving us a bit of an extra push. We are making an average of 6.2 knots with just the headsail! Big swells out of the east today…some 15+ footers. Hard for me to gauge, I’m not the best at it. But they were big.

I spent today crafting a tow bridle and working with BoatUS to get a strategy down for getting into Pearl Harbor. We are having fuel filter issues and can’t run the engine. Luckily, we have the solar panels which are providing a bit of power for our electronics.

We will need to be towed into Pearl Harbor which, to be honest, is a bit humbling after sailing 2500 miles. The engine is clogged with dirty fuel. It’s probably a simple fix, just need the right fuel filter. But, I forgot to make sure it was on board before we left. It is always the simple things. In any case, we can’t run the engine which is a pretty big deal.

Other small things have been breaking on the boat so we are coming up with ways to fix them. The compass light is going out intermittently, so we are using a clip on book light Lisa, my mother in law, gave to me for Christmas. Works pretty well. Willy has been the man with coming up with ingenious ways to fix stuff. He’s always willing to hop into the bilge or engine to figure it out. Absolutely stellar. Quite a lifesaver to have on board.

Last night we had to reef* the mainsail in the middle of the night. It was a lesson in how quickly things can go wrong when we do them too fast in a highly dynamic environment. Simple process, but in the dark, with wet decks, and in a pitching sea things get complicated. The winds had picked up enough that we just wanted to run with a headsail alone as we could get a better course. Rather than talking through the process, we knew what we are doing after all, we just went to it.

During the middle of the procedure, I was at the helm, and Willy asked me to “head up” (point the bow towards the wind) as this would alleviate tension on the mainsail and allow us to reef it. Rather than head up, I accidentally beared away (put the stern through the wind) and we did an uncontrolled gybe. The boom swung from one side of the boat to the other and almost knocked Ryder into the water and almost nailed Willy in the head.

A very serious situation. Two things on a boat that can kill you; the boom and going overboard. Luckily Ryder was safe and no one was hurt. I felt terrible. We were close to a very bad night and really, it was my fault.

We got the main reefed and all calmed down. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well after that.

There have been so many lessons learned during this trip. Not just about sailing and the sea, but about life, about myself, about others. I’m still trying to digest all of them. But, one that has hit home since last night is that we all make mistakes and the key is to learn from them and become better for next time. I feel like this is a lesson I’ve learned often but life keeps teaching me. More to come on this…

In the meantime, we are making plans for our port call and which tattoos we are going to get to commemorate the occasion.

We are all safe and in good spirits; but certainly in need of a shower and a good nights rest.

Much thanks to everyone following along, this has been one wild ride (still some to go!).

Until then…Stay Gold

*Reefing a sail is a process where we make the sail area smaller thereby reducing pressure on it from the wind and lowering the center of effort on the sails. It’s something we do in high winds to make the boat more controllable.

Quick update…

We are about 450 nautical miles out from Honolulu. Making an average of 6.2 knots, we have been putting down 150 mile days.

Quite a bit has happened in the past 24-36 hours, but I’m not in a good head space to write it up for the internet. I’ll fill you in later.

In the meantime, its sunny, the winds are sassy (leftovers from Fernanda) and we are making good time under just a 110% headsail. Everyone is safe and the boat is doing well. Preparations are in progress for making landfall.

Can’t Beat a Seawater Bath

Friends and family. As I type this we are nearing the 600 mile mark to Diamond Head. We are making a bit slower speed today to favor a more preferred westerly course. With the wind directly out of the north east, it makes it hard to sail with efficiency to the south west. We tried the Twizzle Rig (twin headsails – no main) but that puts a lot of pressure on the forestay which stresses the backstay which is being held up with web strapping and other assorted bits and pieces of gear. There is certainly a concern that the backstay or forestay could fail so we are avoiding the Twizzle Rig for now. Unfortunately that means a bit slower speed to our destination.

Ashley sent me a digest of some of the recent comments on the Fb page. WOW. I am so honored that you are all following along on our adventure. Thank you for taking the time to write to us, it means the world. I had no idea, when I set out on this adventure over a year and half ago that so many people would want to follow along and be inspired by it. I’m beyond pleased that is the case and sincerely appreciate all of your support.

Overall, we are doing well out here. The wind and weather is fair and we are making good progress to Honolulu. During the day, the inside of the boat gets around 81 with 80% humidity, so the ocean breeze feels nice. We are all getting a bit antsy to get off the boat, get some downtime, a good shower, clean bed and a few brews (it’s the simple things in life, I tell ya!). The highlight of today, for me, was taking a bath with saltwater! Feels amazing not to have greasy hair.

We can tell we are getting closer to civilization. Early this morning we had a huge container ship overtake us on the starboard side at about 2 miles out. I hailed them on the VHF, mostly cause it’s fun to chat it up a bit and see what the deal is. Also to make sure they saw us and we weren’t in danger of a collision. After chatting a bit they altered course. They were headed to Hawaii as well and confirmed our weather sources were correct with regard to Fernanda. It’s nice to make a connection with other souls out here that aren’t on the same boat as us. Makes us feel like the vast ocean is just a bit smaller.

We’ve also seen a few aircraft flying overhead. Hard to tell what type, but they’re not commercial jets. First signs of civilization after venturing through 1500 miles of uninhabited badlands. This ocean is so huge, it really makes one feel insignificant.

Stay Gold Pony Boy

Today marks the 16th day of this voyage. Mentally, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that. Seems like we were just leaving Gig Harbor yesterday.

It might have something to do with the fact that each day is relatively the same. We stand the same watches. Have the same routine. The view consists of clouds, sun, sky, waves, the occasional flying fish and more occasional bit of random plastic.

Speaking of that. Fun fact; we have had our fishing line out for the past 16 days. We have caught one small Dorado. The guys fried it up for fish tacos, I abstained as I don’t eat meat. Now for the sad fact: we have caught more pieces of plastic on our lure than fish. We have seen 10 times the plastic floating by us. We are killing our oceans. It’s not an “alternative fact”; it’s simply the truth. If you don’t believe me, get in your boat and come out here to check it out. In the meantime, feel free to reduce the use of plastic and recycle. The flying fish out here will appreciate it.

Anyway, I digress. Stand by for a bunch of sailing jargon…The sailing today has been epic. Sunny skies, 15-20 knots out of the NNE. Swells out of the east at 8-10 seconds, Stay Gold is charging along on a broad reach, port tack, under a full mainsail and a 110% genoa, she’s taking the swells in stride – this is her time to shine. She loves this weather, it’s what she was made for. At the helm, she feels alive and full of energy, perfectly balanced. So much fun to sail. All those super light air buoy races aren’t so much fun with a boat made to take on the ocean. Conditions like today make me proud of her and are just too much fun to sail in.

To wax philosophical…I’ve been working hard to learn the lessons that this voyage is trying to teach me. As I type this, I’m not sure which one I want to talk about as the past few days have been a quite the learning curve.

A big part of the reason for undertaking this endeavor is not only fulfillment of a dream, but to discover more about who my true character is. Without some level of adversity I won’t be challenged to move out of my comfort zone and see who I really am.

I’ve learned, that sometimes what I find, after coming through a challenge is that I am not who I thought was, or at least my “self view” is a bit skewed. And I might not like the result. But that’s a good place to be, I think. To some degree, that’s where I’m at now and it gives the opportunity for growth and improvement, if that’s what I decide to do with it.

I had set some expectations for what this experience would give me. Reality hasn’t matched what I thought those expectations should be and part of my “suffering” is coming to terms with that. The interesting thing is, even though my unrealistic expectations aren’t being matched, this is still been a life changing experience. Acceptance of what is, not expecting what I think should be.

We are getting close to finishing this adventure. I’ll have to start planning the next one, earmuffs Ashley! Closing in on 600 miles left…we expect to make landfall on the 26th or 27th. In the meantime, thank you all for reading, sharing, liking, commenting, etc. We love it! Keep it up! By the way, we can’t read the comments, no internet – just email. We will respond when we can.

Until then…Stay Gold

14 days and Counting

We are all exhausted. The past 24 hours has been busy. It started out last night with spaghetti night and then for dessert, a series of squalls running through which left us on our toes. After an evening sail configuration change in the rain and a squall, we went back to running straight 4 hours on 4 hours off with two on deck to make sure we could handle whatever came our way. This left everyone with a severe lack of sleep.

It seems like at night the weather picks up and that’s when things get a bit hairy. In the morning, it calms down and then picks up again in the afternoon.

The noise and motion of the boat is such that when we are making good progress the boat is rocking and loud – when we are not making good progress it’s easy and quiet – perfect time to nap. Oh the irony.

We woke up to a wet, humid boat. Always lots of fun. The rest of the day was filled with work. Willy and I got the engine started and charging the batteries but it only lasted for a few minutes then died on us. After troubleshooting we found it was a few dirty filters. I had two of the three spares on board but the most important one was taken off at some point and never put back on. Shame on me. The plan is to try to clean it out tomorrow and see if we can get it back to working.

Willy also re-enforced our backstay rig with a broken hydraulic cylinder I found in the recesses of the boat while searching for a fuel filter. He refurbished this old broken backstay adjuster and we put it on to attempt to tighten the temporary rig we have now. It totally worked! Willy for the win! He’s a never ending array of knowledge and surprises. Super happy to have him on board.

Beau is learning how to be a killer helmsman. He calculated that we have all spent about 84 straight hours at the helm. Won’t get that experience in a classroom. He does great though, locks in and gets it done!

By the time the evening comes we are all wiped out and napping or reading or standing watch. Not having an autopilot is a burden. As much as we will like to say we did it without one; I would NOT recommend doing this voyage without one unless you’re racing. I will be ripping ours out and sending it back to Raymarine for a replacement. We purchased it specifically for this passage.

Today marks 14 days on board. We are all ready to have more personal space, take a shower, eat a good meal. The mental aspect compounded by the lack of solid sleep is starting to wear on the team. But, the experience is still absolutely worth it.

Time for a nap…until then, Stay Gold and Crew

Rough Days…

There is an aspect of spending time at sea that lends itself to an unusual sort of loneliness. It’s strange, you’re surrounded by people yet you feel this twinge of being alone.

Deployments on a submarine are where I’ve felt it the most. Surrounded by 130 souls and sometimes it feels like you might as well be out there by yourself. Here, it’s a bit different. The four of us have grown closer and bonded over shared triumphs, toasts to victory and defeat. We tell life stories, we solve problems giving the celebratory high five after success. Living in close quarters, you grow close quickly. We are lucky to have such a great crew. One person who doesn’t get along or has a negative attitude can throw off the entire vibe. Nevertheless you miss home, friends, family, etc. It seems to intensify about half way through the journey.

Today I was a bit out of sorts. Wasn’t feeling myself. I’ve spent enough time at sea to know it was just a bit of a mental slump with some loneliness in there and didn’t allow myself to get too wrapped up in it or make poor offhanded comments that could affect the rest of the crew. They noticed though, it’s impossible not to. The best thing I’ve learned to do is accept it, try to work through it and understand it for what it is; just you mentally coping with a long term stressful situation.

This isn’t fun like going to the amusement park. This isn’t enjoyable like dinner at Applebee’s (am I right Ryder?!). There are moments where those emotions emerge, but overall there is stress to cope with. There are problems to solve. There is a constant state of potential danger that exists. We aren’t sitting on the sun deck getting served Pineapple Juice and Rum while getting our feet massaged.

We are changing sail configurations at 3am on a pitching foredeck. No one has showered in 12 days. We are eating dehydrated meals, nuts, bars and peanut butter and jelly. We are having hard conversations about pending weather patterns and the right course to steer to make landfall. We are managing interpersonal relationships in an environment filled with stress and the unknown; constantly changing variables. We are living, cooking, cleaning, sleeping and generally existing within a 10 x 15 foot space.

Today we passed south of 30 degrees North. We are, quite literally, 1000 nautical miles from civilization. That’s about the same as standing in Seattle and having EMTs, the Fire Department, tow truck, etc somewhere around Minneapolis. We are on our own. The danger is real. There is no help around the corner. The USCG range is about 500 nautical miles from land.

This is a challenge. And it helps to recognize that. To embrace it for what it is. To mentally acknowledge that what we are doing isn’t easy, but in the end will be an achievement and totally worth it. In the end, nothing worthwhile comes easy.

Even though it sounds like we are gluttons for punishment and I might be coming across a bit dramatic; we knew this what we were getting into. We wanted to test ourselves, the ship – against the Pacific. We set out to do exactly what we are accomplishing. THAT is why we are doing this, not because it’s “fun”.

We appreciate all the comments, shares, likes etc on our stories. It makes us feel supported! Keep it up! We will keep them coming! Also, just to let you know – we can’t see the comments left here – no regular internet out here. Just email. Please don’t feel like we are ignoring you because we haven’t commented back.

Don’t forget to check us out on Instagram: @svstaygold and check out our Crew Gear on the website!

Until then…Stay Gold