At the helm of a sailboat, solo, at night, plying the waters of a vast ocean; you have some time to think about things.
Often, I wonder why we, as humans, do the things we do. We all chose different paths and put our energy into such different things. Some people find comfort in faith, others science, still others chose to just care about nothing. Some are extreme athletes and others won’t take the elevator because it moves too fast.
Some people are fine sitting on the sidelines, at home, watching the tele all day. Others can’t fathom spending more than a few minutes wasting time. When I talk about my families current adventures, I hear, all the time, oh wow! That’s so exciting, that’s on my bucket list! Or, what a trip of a lifetime!
I find those phrases, most likely offered with the purest of hearts, to just be things we say and mostly empty gestures. Like, “hey! How are you?” Let’s be honest for a moment, when you ask someone how they are, nine times out of ten you’ve moved on to what you’re going to say next before they’ve had a chance to tell you how they are. We don’t live in the moment. We live so wrapped up inside our own heads that we don’t always see what is happening around us. Most of the time, what is happening around is that we are letting life slip by. One life to live. That’s it.
I don’t have a bucket list. I don’t have a trip of a lifetime.
Those are too temporal for me. Every trip is the trip of a lifetime because that could be the last trip I go on. We are halfway across the Pacific and I’m already thinking about what the next adventure will be…how to continue the Adventures of Stay Gold. A bucket list insinuates that we have time to do things before we die. We don’t. We only have one life and it’s fleeting. It’s gone before we know we even have it. Today is your life. Tomorrow may never come.
Spend today watching the tele. Or spend today working towards your life’s goal. The choice is yours and yours alone. You are the captain of your ship. Make it happen.
Hellen Keller said “security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
Be afraid of stepping out and expect to never leave the spot you’re standing on.
If you’re one of those people who are comfortable sitting on the couch watching sitcoms and can be happy with that; more power to you.
But, if you, in your heart, know there is something you want to do with your life and are searching for the courage to step out on the road less traveled – here is your chance. If I can take a boat, over the course of a year and half and get it ready to sail across the Pacific, then actually execute that voyage – you can do whatever is in your heart. There is nothing in me that you don’t have. You just have to make it happen.
What is in your heart, your expedition, your voyage, that you want to make happen? Leave a comment and let us know. We are here cheering you on!
Until then, Stay Gold.
Another day of motoring. It’s getting old. We have to shout to talk to someone four feet away. I don’t think I could realistically own a power boat. We all just want to turn the engine off and sail but the wind isn’t there yet. This time under motor has given us the opportunity to relax a bit, charge our batteries and catch up on reading. Beau finally picked John Adams by David Mccollough. I’m working through True Spirit by Jessica Watson (thoughtfully gifted to the ship’s library by Mark Watland during our send off – thank you!). Willy is reading Blood Meridian by Cormac Mccarthy and Chris is reading Adventures at Sea in the Great Age of Sail, edited by Captain Elliot Snow.
Rumor has it that tonight will be a crew dinner, tacos! We put all the fixings together, even have limes on board! Ashley made it work for us, she sneakily packed away some dehydrated taco filling…thanks babe!
Ashley is a big reason why we are here. She does so much to keep the family together, actually she does most of it. While I’m off playing boat, she’s working a full time job, running a business (www.mysouthsoundwedding.com), taking care of two small kids, getting a house ready to pack and move to Hawaii, being our unofficial PR Coordinator, getting cars ready to ship to Hawaii – she’s insanely busy. And through it all, she keeps her head on her shoulders and takes it all in stride. I can’t imagine how we would have gotten this expedition to where it is without her. There were multiple occasions where I was ready to quit, to sell the boat and give up. But, she pushed me on, gave me confidence, gave me the right thoughts to focus on and honestly, gave me the motivation I needed to push through the tough times. This project has encompassed our family for the past year and half. Not only were there countless hours working on the boat after work, but I picked up side hustles teaching sailing and shooting photography gigs to put extra income into the bank account to offset the costs of prepping the boat. The whole process is just too much to go into from a blog perspective, but rest assured, it has consumed our family in many ways. To see this dream realized is almost too good to believe. I’ve laid awake at night thinking what it will be like to sail in the middle of the ocean, with nothing around but the stars and the the sound of the waves to keep company – without Ashley and her tireless efforts, this endeavor would have never occurred. A debt I can never repay but I’ll spend the rest of my life trying.
The big debate as of late is our heading. Maybe because it’s the only thing that we can really fixate on, the thing that controls our destiny and short term future. We have some loose deadlines, for all of us, waiting on shore. We have business meetings and planes to catch…”real lives” to return to. Seems like it’s so far off but the course we drive dictates whether we make those next events. Right now, we are heading south in search of breeze, but that’s not making much way towards our final destination. Once this wind builds in, we can sail directly for Hawaii and start cranking off the miles.
We came across a pod of dolphins or whales earlier this afternoon, it was hard to tell. We thought they were Orcas at first but after they came closer they seemed like really big dolphins. Always a welcome sight to see a huge pod of whales in the same area as you. They didn’t come really close, but we took that as a great time to hop in the water in hopes of seeing them…by the time we got it all sorted out it was too late to see them swimming. Regardless, Willy and I went skinny dipping in the middle of the Pacific and took a bit of a bath. The water was pretty damn cold, probably around 60 degrees but it was so refreshing. Eight days without washing besides wet wipes makes for dirty dudes. The water out here is so blue, it’s such a perfect shade, it’s the same color as the iMessenger icon on your phone. It’s crystal clear and it feels like you can see all the way to the bottom of the ocean. I took a few minutes to scope out the bottom of Stay Gold, she’s clean and in good shape.
After a few games of cribbage with Willy it’s time for my watch. Spirits are high as we’re about to hit the trades and start cranking out the miles (Havana Club helped too!).
Until then…Stay Gold.
We are still caught in this bit of a high pressure area. Pulled the latest GRIB and it shows we are close to making it into wind. We are able to motorsail right now which is helping with fuel efficiency. Gotta love those diesel engines. On 10 gals of fuel we can run for 20 hours at 5 knots. Pretty good. We have a 4 cylinder 44 hp Westerbeke on board and she does a great job pushing us along. We have another 10 gallons of fuel on the rail for use, if needed.
We shouldn’t need it, by the time we get to the same a latitude as Santa Barbara we should be in the trades. I’ll be happy not to listen to the engine run anymore. My head, when I lay down in my rack, is 3 feet away from the engine. Glad I didn’t forget ear plugs.
Fifth day or so of clouds too. Nice cool balmy weather.
I think more cribbage is on the plan for tonight.
We are fighting for wind.
Who would have thought that 500 miles west of San Francisco, 800 miles south east of Cape Flattery and 1600 miles from Hawaii there would be no wind. The seas are flat, undulating, mesmerizing – but wind-less.
The decision was made late last night to turn the engine on and motor when the winds died off early this morning. We knew they were going to die off because we have been regularly pulling down GRIB** files from Predict Wind. It’s a weather routing/forecast service that provides highly accurate weather charts and forecasts. I’m really happy with how it’s performing, we’ve been able to use it with a large degree of accuracy.
We are moving south, under motor, at about 4-5 knots, in flat seas with a west swell. No wind. Just diesel exhaust and engine noise. Besides Willy kicking my ass in cribbage, todays big math exercise was calculating how far we could get with the amount of fuel on board and what time we would arrive there which would tell us if/when we will find wind. We have about enough fuel on board to make it 200 miles which puts us on the same latitude as Santa Barbara…the forecast predicts there will be wind. We shall see. If there is no wind between here and there, then we will have to wait until about Saturday for the wind to fill in. Once we hit the trade winds we should start crank out the miles again.
The quiet conditions gave us time to do some cleaning of the boat (one small head + four dudes = …well, you get it) and ourselves, sleep, read, play a few games of cribbage. We even flew the drone! Got some fun practice in launching and recovering, Willy nearly fell off the bow of the boat with the drone in his hands. Don’t worry, we got the whole event on Ryder’s phone. Willy scrapped his knee up, I tried to give him stitches but he insisted a bandaid would be fine. I was hoping to break out the suture kit.
The boat is holding up well. Having Willy onboard to help with maintenance and repair of small things has been awesome. We re-enforced the backstay today with some awesome teamwork across the board. Beau drove the boat like a seasoned pro and Willy and Ryder and I put our collective brains together to figure out how to get more tension into the backstay so the forestay wouldn’t sag so much. It’s easier to explain in person. In any case we used winches, pulleys, block and tackles and tons of webbing, shackles, lines and wire rope to shore up the backstay so the rig won’t fall down when we hit the trades. Sounds much more dramatic than it really is. As Willy has said multiple times: “We won’t lose the rig”. I believe him.
I would like to take a moment of silence for Willy’s iPhone. It’s been committed to the deep, forever locked away with Davey Jones. Unceremoniously I might add…nevertheless, never to be seen again. Slipped out of his shirt pocket as he leaned over the rail to do something.
I have to give a shout out to Beau. I woke up early this morning, around 2am, to the sails swinging back and forth, no wind to fill them and figured Beau might need some help. He was up on deck, solo, at night, in the middle of the Pacific. You can hear the water, but you can’t see it. There are no lights up on deck except the compass light which only serves to show you the course you’re on. No lights anywhere else, pitch black. The water is hissing past the boat, you can’t see the horizon, you have to trust your compass and the wind indicator at the top of the mast. This is about his 8th day sailing. Ever. That alone takes some courage. Beau has it spades. I make my way up on deck and find he’s intently staring at the compass doing his best to stay on course. In this case, the wind had shifted and the current course wouldn’t work for how our sails were trimmed.
I helped Beau trim the sails but could tell he was frustrated. I totally get it. Slatting sails in a swell take the power away from the “engine” and are super annoying to boot. You feel powerless. But, Beau, in his good nature was grinding it out. Not annoyed or frustrated, he was doing his best to support the team, complete the task assigned and with courage to take a solo night watch even.
Sailing, alone, at night in the middle of the Pacific can be overwhelming but Beau has taken everything this adventure has thrown him and turned into something positive. The first night we were slogging our way west through the Straits of Juan de Fuca; we had 20 knot winds on the nose, motoring against 4-6 foot wind waves that were 3-5 seconds apart (the boat was WET, cold and rocking like crazy). Beau took a night watch then and nailed it.
He has no shortage of courage and his good nature desire to learn is contagious. Beau Knows that he doesn’t know but he wants to learn. I’m really happy how this crew has turned out. We are all working together, gelling and having a blast.
The past few days the weather has been overcast, even when we had wind. I was hoping to get a chance to see the stars with no light pollution, but it hasn’t happened yet. Oh, from one Chief to another…a big shoutout to Phil Ryder for the heads up on Tropical Storm Eugene, we have been tracking it via our GRIB downloads and it seems to have died out. Tropical storms aren’t such a huge concern right now, due to the time of year and how far north we will be but we are keeping an eye out. However, we really appreciate the heads up as I had no idea it had become a named storm.
If all goes well and we can crank out some miles in the trade winds, we should be arriving in Hawaii on July 25th, plus or minus a day. I want to make at least one 190 mile day…that’s an average of 8 knots, sustained over the full 24 hours.
If you haven’t followed us on Facebook yet, please do so! It’s the best way to take part in this adventure with us. We are also on Instagram (@svstaygold) although I can’t update that while I’m out here. As always, we have crew gear for sale on the website – check it out!
Thank you all for sharing, commenting, liking and being a part of the great adventure! We are honored to share it with you!
Stay Gold and her Crew
**Gridded Binary Files are computer generated wind charts that we can use to forecast location, direction and strength of the wind. Crucial for success.
Friends! Wow…the responses to our blog and Facebook posts are amazing. We feel the love! Thank you for responding and for sharing/liking our posts! Keep ‘em coming! I’ve received a few emails and Ashley has been forwarding us some as well so that we can get your feedback. Feel free to email your burning questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The past day has been much more relaxing than the first week. Part of it is that we are getting into a good groove. The weather has held and the winds are strong enough for us to make great time. We have become very fond of the course 210 – you tend to find lots of things to love about it after hours and hours of staring at compass in the dark of night. You make up songs, special names…there is even talk of some serious commitment to 210. Possibly in the form of a tattoo. Nevertheless…spirits are high, rum rations are not low and we march on.
Right now we are passing over the Mendocino Escarpment. I’m not an oceanographer and I don’t have access to Google so that I can sound like one, but from what I understand it’s incredibly deep here. On the order of 16,000 feet. That’s deeper than Mount Rainier is high. If the vastness of the Pacific Ocean didn’t make us feel small, that sure does.
This place is beautiful, yet desolate. No boats. No birds. No whales or fish jumping. All we see, day in and day out are waves. It’s simple, yet can deal a lesson in humility quickly. Stop driving for 210 for a minute because you’re wrapped up in a conversation about how Flare Training is a good idea and all the sudden you take a giant wave to the face. Regardless, we march on.
In response to your emails:
#1. For weather and communication we are using an IridiumGO and Predict Wind. Don’t get a satellite phone and buy minutes. Total waste of time. It takes about 15 minutes to download a relatively useful GRIB file and that would cost $22.50, give or take, if we used Iridium minutes and a satellite phone. We have unlimited data with the IridiumGO plan and it works like a charm.
#2. There have been some questions on what each of us are reading. To be fair, we haven’t had much time to read. But, when we do, this is the list: Brian: The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
Willy: Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Beau: still trying to pick from his huge library he brought
#3. We do keep the sailboat running 24/7. To do that, we must keep watch at night to steer and also for a lookout. For the past week, we’ve been running a rotating 4 hour on/4 hour off watch section. Two of us on deck at a time. We have just amended that a bit so that we have a standby person who can read, sleep, eat etc during the last two hours of their watch. So, it goes like this…Willy comes on watch at 8am and stands watch until 12pm. Beau comes on watch at 10am and stands watch until 2pm. Brian comes on watch at 12pm and stands watch until 4pm. Ryder comes on watch at 2pm and stands watch until 6pm…and we just keep going. The downside of this rotation is that we only get to sleep in 2-3 hour increments. If you’ve done that rotation for any length of time, you know that no matter what you do exhaustion creeps in. Couple that with a boat this constantly in motion (it takes much more effort to cook or even move around the boat), constantly requires care and cleaning – doesn’t leave much time to rest, let alone read or play cribbage.
#4. The weather has been decent. At night it gets down to about 55 or 60, bit warmer now that we are moving south. It also depends on the weather system around us. We all wear proper foul weather gear, ie: offshore sailing jackets with big collars and nice hoods, overall pants, foul weather boots, etc. We also wear PFDs with harnesses and tethers so that we can clip into the boat anywhere. If there were to be a man overboard, we would be clipped into the boat and that would prevent us from being lost in the dark of night in big seas. Trying to keep ourselves, our gear and the boat dry is a constant battle. Every is damp. Humidity hovers around 80-90%. Temperature, right now, goes between 61 and 73 deg f.
#5. Steering by hand requires great concentration because of the seas we are in. We are on a broad reach (steering course 210!) with the seas on the starboard quarter and also some larger swells out of the west. This causes us to head up into the wind when these large swells come and push the stern to leeward. The person driving (the helmsman) must overcome that pressure on the rudder and bring the bow back down. It’s a constant battle…it’s quite a workout actually. The boat is charging along at anywhere between 5 to 8 knots, sometimes surfing at more than 9 knots. We do have an auto helm on board, and Raymarine assured me it was fixed before we left but alas it died again right before we exited the Straits of Juan de Fuca. The self steering wind vane we have works, but we are unable to tune it with the tiller in use. That would require us to pull in somewhere. So, we’ve resolved to steering ourselves to Honolulu and holding our heads up a bit higher than the other guys who relied on a machine to do the heavy lifting. If nothing else, we will be pros at steering a sailboat by the time we’ve clocked off 2500 nautical miles.
I’ve also been asked to give a bit more details on the remainder of the crew (Beau was in a previous post). So here goes…
Willy Kunkle, First Mate
A professional sailor, Captain and musician, he splits his time between touring with his band The Builders and the Butchers and sailing the world at the helm of mega yachts for the rich and famous. You’ll know Willy by his mustache and his easy going, good nature that draws everyone in. He’s a seasoned sailor with over 20,000 nautical miles to his name. Calm under pressure, resolved and always with a smile on face, Willy has traveled the world and has a thirst for adventure. He’s an absolute joy to have on the team. His sailing knowledge is incredible and has been drawn upon…we’ve all learned a few knots we didn’t know before.
Chris Ryder, Navigator
A crack navigator, Chris also has lived, literally, all over the world. He has also climbed most of the major peaks from Russia to Iceland during his time as a climbing expedition guide. He’s turned his attention to sailing has his next challenge to conquer. When Chris tells a story about his life, it may seem like a tall tale at first, but he’s got nothing to prove as he’s done most of it. So, it’s just best to let the story unfold and take it all in. Sometimes critical, always a realist and quick to question my dumb ideas; he’s the keel on the team that keeps the mast and sails pointed toward the sky.
Brian Bugge, Skipper
Husband, father, currently a USN Chief, (soon to be) USN Naval Officer, photographer, scuba diver, USCG licensed captain and ASA sailing instructor. With a love of all things related to the ocean, sailing and a Transpacific ocean voyage feels like something I was destined to be a part of. When I’m not crossing oceans either on my own or for my career with the Navy, I’m exploring foreign countries with my wife and kids and doing my best to live life to the fullest (one life to live!). My goal in life is to never have a bucket list, instead completing adventures in life as opportunities arise.
Please continue to share our story as we believe that inside each of us exists an explorer, an adventurer, an expedition waiting to happen. What that looks like for you will be different than what it looks like for us. But, if we can do this, you can chase your dreams too. It just takes the first step…
Until then, steering 210.
Stay Gold and her Crew
We are getting word from shoreside that there is interest in the updates from sea. We are honored and appreciate the support! We are just four regular dudes going for our dreams. It’s amazing to watch people be supportive of that. If we can inspire just one person to take that step towards their dream then it’s worth it.
Communication out here is limited, we don’t have internet so we can’t see comments on the updates but we can email. If you’re interested in asking a question that we can address through the blog updates, feel free to email email@example.com and we will do our best to answer them.
Today has been a relatively chill day. We did some battery maintenance and cleaning during a calmer period of the morning. Always work and cleaning to be done. Between sail configuration changes, cooking, standing watch, maintenance, cleaning; the day goes by quickly.
We haven’t seen another boat for three days. No whales or even birds out here. We are about 265 miles from land, just south of the Oregon/California border. In two days we should reach the same latitude as San Francisco and then head more west towards Honolulu.
The weather has been great, spirits are high, a toast was had crossing into California…we are on a roll.
Shoot us a question, like and share our posts! If you’re feeling really froggy, we have Stay Gold gear for sale on the website…check it out!
Brian, Chris, Willy and Beau