Netflix and Chill

This past day has been quite interesting. I asked Chris if he was having fun earlier and he looked at me with a funny look on his face and said “this isn’t exactly watching Netflix and eating popcorn”.

I rephrased the question “Is this worth it so far?”.

He replied “Absolutely.”

He’s right though, this isn’t the traditional definition of fun. Taking a boat 2500 miles across an ocean isn’t Netflix and Chill. It’s work. But, not to sound trite, nothing good comes easy. So, we grind it out. We solve problems as they come.

We started today down two on the scoreboard; malfunctioning backstay and dead batteries. We ended today with a jerry rig on the backstay that should get us all the way to Honolulu and the engine running, charging the batteries. Back to even. Thank some smart scientist for solar panels.

There were conversations early this morning about how we could make our way to the coast to pull the boat in to get it fixed. We decided to rely upon ourselves and fix the issue. This is why we are out here. Regular guys “facing up”.

Speaking of regular guys. As I type this out on my iPhone I’m in the cockpit of Stay Gold with Beau, who has the helm. We are watching the sunset on a beautiful Pacific night and working our way to the Tropics (we have to steer by hand).

Beau is the definition of a regular guy. He’s a 5th grade school teacher from San Diego who loves adventure and travel more than most. He once spent 6 months in New Zealand with 10 of his friends just for fun. When I called him a year and a half ago to see if he was interested in this voyage he said “ahh man I’m not sure, I don’t really know how to sail or anything. Lemme think about and I’ll call you back”

Not even five minutes later he called me back to say “Hell yes. I’m in.” And he’s been true to his word. He took an ASA 101 class that I taught the other day and then hopped on the boat for Hawaii. He’s a natural at sailing and a great crew member.

I think what is most remarkable about Beau is how much of a team player he is. He started this adventure out of his element but wants to learn, doesn’t complain about anything and is a joy to be around. We are lucky to have him.

It’s about my time to take the helm. From the middle of the Pacific, with love…

Stay Gold and her crew.

Adapt and Overcome

We almost lost the rig last night.

It seems like these things always happen in the middle of the night. I had just laid down for a nap after my watch. I’m about to put my headphones in and I hear Willy say “Brian, Brian! We lost the backstay adjuster”.

I hopped out of the rack and ran up topside in my shirt and skivvies. Luckily, no rain. Just salt spray. The seal that holds hydraulic fluid into the cylinder – essential part of the equipment – had failed. Our backstay was flopping around like a wet noodle. This is the wire that connects the mast to the stern of the boat; critical for keeping the mast pointed up and not somewhere else.

Willy and I quickly devised a plan using some dyneema, a block and tackle and other assorted parts and pieces to keep the backstay where it should be. Later today, Chris used his climbing knowledge to form a more permanent solution.

I was really impressed with everyone’s cool heads and ability to solve problems under pressure. I feel like sailing is just a series of problems that require solving, along with some wind and sails. Compound that issue with minimal sleep, dead batteries and the inability to run the engine to charge them (charging up now with solar!) and last night could be considered a kick in the balls.

Sun is out now and we are slowly making our way to the South-South West. The water is so blue out here, it beautiful. No whales or dolphins yet though.

Getting a few mins of sleep before my watch…Capt Brian

An Albatross Kind of Day

The weather has filled in and we are making an average of 7-8 knots directly towards Hawaii. The latest weather GRIB shows the conditions should remain…we just need the boat and crew to keep up! We’ve made 160 nautical miles in the last 33 hours. Not too impressive as we had a night with very light wind.

I think the most stressful part of being at sea so far away from anyone else is the total trust you develop in your fellow crew and the boat. The noises that the boat makes are totally normal, but they make your mind wander. So far things are holding up. Stay Gold is a solid boat and she will take good care of us.

Earlier today we spotted a few albatross; a sign of good luck and favor to the sailor. It’s believed that the albatross holds the heart of a sailor and they bring good omen. Let’s hope so!

No luck fishing so far; we have a tuna handline ran off the stern and are trolling a huge lure looking for a tuna or anything else that will take it. We did see some tuna fishing boats out this far. We called one over the VHF to chat and he said they had only 15 fish for the day.

Our Raymarine autohelm is out for the count…it was working after factory repairs but after we got through the Straits it started to malfunction. I haven’t been able to get it to work since. The selfsteering windvane is also a no-go; we can’t get it to cope with the conditions nor set up correctly so we’ve resigned to steering by hand for the remaining 2100 nautical miles. Not much else will make you a great helmsperson than driving a boat for 12 hours a day with quartering seas.

If conditions hold and we can continue the momentum we’ve developed we should make landfall in about 15 days. That said…a lot can happen between now and then.

Final thought from a conversation in the cockpit earlier today; if you ever want to discover the true nature of your character, climb a mountain or go to sea.

Until then, Stay Gold.

Captain Brian and Crew

Grounded and Grinding it out

We are approximately 85 nautical miles off the coast of Oregon, heading southeast around a weak, unpredicted low pressure system.

The past few days have been eventful. We are a bit tired and wet but spirits are high. It takes a lot to keep a sailboat running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We sail nonstop. To do that, we keep watch shifts. There are tons of ways to do this, we selected a rotating watch shift. We have to two teams, A and B. Each team has two members, Willy and I are in A and Beau and Chris are in B. Willy and I relieve each other and Beau and Chris relieve each other. We stagger the relief times so that there are always two on deck to sail and there are no gaps in turnover data. It’s working well, but with this system and the number of crew members we only get four hours of time between shifts to sleep, hygiene, eat and write blog posts. It can get tiring.

I didn’t mention this in my last blog post, but it’s a good story to keep a guy humble and prove how it’s important to work together as a team.

As we were coming into Seiku for fuel and brews we had to pass to the right of a breakwater. At the end of the breakwater was a couple of orange buoys (not official navigational aides) on the right and then on the left were docks with boats.

I cut the corner around the breakwater too tight and ended up soft grounding on a sand bar. As soon as I felt the boats motion change I knew we had grounded (done it a few times before!) and called out to the crew who was on deck that we grounded.

I immediately put on a hard rudder to turn the boat toward open water and the crew got on the rail to heel the boat. With the hard rudder and heeling we were able to get her off the sand bar and back out to the bay. I called the marina again and apparently they watched us ground and then get the boat off the sand bar. What’s frustrating about this is that we had JUST called to confirm they had fuel – it would have been nice to get some local knowledge before we popped ourselves up on a sandbar. Also, I should have checked the charts better before heading in.

It was great to see the team hop to and get the boat back on her feet. Teamwork at its finest.

Time for a nap…until then, stay gold.

Captain Brian and Crew

First Day at Sea

First day at sea! We made almost 120 miles, leaving Gig Harbor at 10:06am on July 6th and arriving at Seiku WA at about 1:30pm.

We haven’t sailed at all yet; for a sailing expedition this has been a testament to how many times we can fill the Diesel engine fuel tank with 5 gallon jerry cans in a pitching sea without getting fuel all over (not many).

We have all been a little seasick, a little cold, and very much tired. There is something about being at sea that makes you only focus on the priorities at the time: keeping the boat moving and keeping yourself moving.

It’s easy to forget to rest or drink or even eat, strange as it sounds. There are ALWAYS things that require attention on the boat so we are fixing small things here or there, or standing watch or resting. That’s basically the routine.

Spirits are high and we had a great afternoon in the wonder berg of Seiku WA to fill up on fuel, food and brews. We are going to round Cape Flattery tonight and begin our long haul south along the coast. Make sure to follow us on the tracker!

Stay Gold,

Captain Brian and Crew

One Week Until We Sail Across the Pacific!

Preps are in full swing. Crew members arrive this week and next. Our departure is planned for July 6th at 10am – just a bit over one week. We are watching the weather closely and hoping the North Pacific High will cooperate. Right now, it’s the blue circle in the image to the left. We want it to stay where it is, or a bit higher so we can sail nearly straight for Hawaii.

Stay tuned…more updates to follow!

Captain Brian and Stay Gold Crew.

Photo by Jan's Marine Pix

Gig Harbor Yacht Club Islands Race 2017

Team Stay Gold competed in the Gig Harbor Yacht Club Islands Race this past weekend. I’ll save the suspense: we didn’t win. In fact, we placed last in our class. This won’t be a harrowing story of how we whipped our competitors or even a proper recap of the race.

Rather, I think what is important, is how the team handled what the race threw our way.

Photo by Jan's Marine PixTo kick off the day, I mixed up our start time. It was a simple mistake of misreading the Sailing Instructions that cost us precious time. A few minutes behind our class across the starting line, we worked to make up for lost time by keeping the #1 headsail up along with the 1.5 oz spinnaker –  we were flying three sails vice everyone else’s two. Our best speed over ground (SOG) as recorded by GPS was 9.2 knots which was helped by the always persistent Northerly current in Colvos Passage. That, along with a LIGHTENING quick bowline made to the genoa clew, as performed by our own Dean Lee, were the highlights of the first few hours of the day. The run north to Blake Island was fast, fun and furious.

The beat back…our track upwind South through Colvos Passage

Conversely, the beat back was brutal with gusts up around 30 knots and the wind directly on the nose. The image to the left shows our track south – we had to tack around 20 times over 15 miles. We kept the boat on her feet by reefing and using a smaller headsail. Stay Gold loves to go to weather and handled the wind and waves with grace. She’s easy to balance and takes waves on the bow in stride. The boat was charging along, riding the fine line between a close haul and pinching, under a reefed main and 110% dacron headsail just fine until BOOOM! the headsail popped out of the luff track and started flying like a massive pennant from the masthead. Quite embarrassing, even non-sailors know that’s not right.

As I sat there for a second, not really believing what happened, I said outloud “How the $#@k are we going to get that down?. Very calmly, Thomas answered back – “Let’s winch it down…” With a plan in place we executed. I winched, Thomas and Dean pulled and after what felt like an hour (in reality about five minutes), we had the beast stuffed down the companionway. Quickly, we pulled up another jib and got it set – we were back in the race! Never say die…

After inspecting the tack of the jib, it turns out the pennant, which connects to the tack of thePhoto by Jan's Marine Pix sail and the boat parted due to chafing from the higher winds. When it parted, the sail pulled, just like a zipper, out of the luff track.

I was a proud Skipper – no one panicked, we just took a second to breathe, think and then act deliberately. Everyone displayed outstanding teamwork, cool heads under pressure and some solid problem solving skills. For that, I say we won the day and you can have the race.

Photo by Jan's Marine PixThis wasn’t the only issue we experienced throughout the day, but it illustrates the point: teamwork is only made successful by a strong leader and a strong leader is only made successful by solid teamwork.

One of the crew tried to give me credit for solving a different problem but the hard truth of the matter is any leader, no matter what organization they are in, is only as good as their team. All successes are a credit to the team and failures to the leader. It is easy to tell a poor Skipper by those that scream at their crews. If that’s you, take a look in the mirror; if someone isn’t doing something the way you want – it’s your fault as the Skipper for not training them. Stop yelling, start teaching.

After a long day fighting the ship, running up and then beating back south through Colvos Passage we finished dead last in class and dead tired but, nevertheless victorious in our own right. Sometimes victories aren’t marked by where you place in a race.

With the ultimate goal being the Oregon Offshore Race, Swiftsure and then a Trans-Pacific crossing in July, we decided to take the weekend to prep by doing an overnight trip right after the race.

Saturday evening, directly following the race, we headed back out by moonlight to continue the test until Sunday.

Keeping watch and sailing through the night we dodged tugs towing, massive merchant ships outbound to the open Pacific and picked constellations out of the inky night-time sky. Again, we learned valuable lessons and gained more confidence in not only ourselves, as sailors, but the boat and, more importantly, each other.

We even learned, during our practice for the Oregon Offshore, that we can steer a rudderless sailboat with a drogue. Who knew.


Help us get to Hawaii by checking out this sweet postcard deal we are running. All photos by Jan’s Marine Photography.

Pilot Charts and What They Tell Us

A big part of the preparation in a long distance voyage involves when to leave and how to get where you’re going…actually that’s a major part of it. Luckily, there are some places to go to get that type of information. One of those places is a Pilot Chart. Pacific Pilot Chart

With a pilot chart, you can select a specific month and determine what years and years of observed currents, wind speed, wind direction and the position of major weather patterns are. This is particularly important for the trek from Seattle to Hawaii because of the North Pacific High – depending on the time of the year it can be right between Seattle and Hawaii.

I’ve selected June or July as the time to leave because the location of the North Pacific High (NPH) is usually a bit farther north during those months (and there are a handful of races that kick off then so if they’re doing it then it must be right, right!?)Pilot Chart Hawaii to Seattle

Using the Pilot Chart, you can select a broad set of courses to help determine the best way to skirt the NPH. The idea is not to drive directly through it because that’s a great way to get becalmed. So, naturally you want to navigate as close as possible but not through. The chartlet above shows the location of the NPH during the month of July. You can see that you can draw almost a straight line from Seattle to Hawaii – about as good as it gets. We’ll want to drive a bit south then south south west after we pass about San Diego. The fine details will be decided closer to leaving using more real-time data. Keep in mind, these Pilot Charts are not real time or up to date data with where the NPH is at right this minute – just aggregated data from years of collection. It’s best to consult actual weather conditions prior to departure.

Preparation Begins…

…for our Transpacific voyage from Seattle to Honolulu HI. The rough date is set for June/July 2017. There is a lot to get done. We’ll use the website as a way to track it but also provide some insight on to the process we use to get ready. Lots to learn. Lots to get done. Ironic that we’ll spend over a year getting ready for a passage that will last 17-24 days.