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A Sailor's Pacific Voyage
by U.S. Navy Anna Marie General
January 21, 2018

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A lifelong dream has become a reality for a four-man crew as they departed Gig Harbor, Washington on their voyage to Hawaii July 6, 2017.

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Bugge received orders to transfer to Commander, Submarine Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet Hawaii. (He was promoted to an Ensign Limited Duty Officer on August 1, 2017.)

Prior to receiving his orders to transfer, Bugge purchased a 36-foot sailboat which now gives him an opportunity to sail across the Pacific Ocean with his crew members Beau, Willy and Christopher.

“It is a unique process, similar to military deployment but different,” Bugge said. “This is my first long voyage beyond 500 miles. I’ve sailed from Gig Harbor to Astoria to Victoria to Gig Harbor, but that was my longest.”

After a year and a half of planning and preparing to get the crew physically, emotionally and financially ready, the boat (Stay Gold) was ready for its voyage to Hawaii.

“We decided to sail to Hawaii because it has been a lifelong dream of mine,” Bugge said. When the Navy said I could work in Hawaii and we just bought a boat that was capable of the journey, it seemed like the perfect thing to do.”

The other crew members share similar dreams as Bugge.

July 27, 2017 - (L-R) Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Bugge, Chris Ryder and Beau Romero on their sailboat "Stay Gold" after sailing from Washington State to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Brian Bugge was promoted to Ensign Limited Duty Officer on August 1, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)
July 27, 2017 - (L-R) Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Bugge, Chris Ryder and Beau Romero on their sailboat "Stay Gold" after sailing from Washington State to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Brian Bugge was promoted to Ensign Limited Duty Officer on August 1, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)

“One of my crew members (Willy) is a professional Sailor and chart captain and has almost completed a circumnavigation of the world, he just needs to complete a few legs of the Pacific,” Bugge said. Another crew member, Beau, is a 5th grade school teacher who just loves adventure. He doesn’t have much sailing experience at all but wants to live life by the fullest.”

With support from family, friends and the local community, a bon voyage was held before the boat was cast off on their journey of a lifetime.

“As the boat was casting off, my immediate thought was ‘how do I keep my 2-year-old daughter from crying right now as she’s yelling ‘I want to sail the boat to Hawaii with Dadda!’,” said Bugge’s wife Ashley while she was trying to film the boats departure.

It wasn’t until Ashley got home and sat down to listen to her voicemails, viewing everyone’s text messages and Facebook posts that she realized what lies ahead of the crew members, especially for her husband.

“Brian has put countless hours -literal blood, sweat and tears into making this dream come true for himself and it is the best feeling to be a part of this accomplishment for him. This is something he will look back on for the rest of his life and be able to say ‘I did that. I made that happen for myself and I’ll have it forever.”

A close encounter with a sandbar…humpback whales a few feet away… Pacific white-sided dolphins in their wake… and that’s just getting started! The journey to Pearl Harbor continues.

The idea to sail to Hawaii from Gig Harbor, Washington began when Brian and Ashley Bugge first purchased their boat in March 2016. Six weeks later, they learned they had to move to Pearl Harbor on military orders.

Brian’s wife Ashley, who also has a love for sailing, was pregnant with their son at the time so she was and is unable to crew for the voyage.

“We had to decide if we wanted to sell the boat we had initially just purchased or figure out a way to bring it with us,” she said.

While the thought of sailing to Hawaii crossed their minds, Brian Bugge called their cousin Beau who is always up for an adventure and asked if he wanted to sail to Hawaii.

According to Ashley, Beau has never been sailing or been to Hawaii before — but as a teacher in San Diego, he has summers off…so after a few minutes of thinking about it, he said “I’m in.”

A month later, Chris, the navigator joined the crew. Just recently, Willy joined their team forming the four-man crew to sail the boat (Stay Gold) to Hawaii. As the crew prepared for their lifelong voyage; they stocked up on water, fuel and everything they needed enough for a three-week journey.

Their first day at sea begins:

“We made almost 120 miles, leaving Gig Harbor at 10:06 a.m. on July 6 and arriving at Seiku, Washington at about 1:30 p.m., Brian Bugge said.

“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.”

Even though the journey has been eventful, they kept their spirits high.

“It takes a lot to keep a sailboat running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we sail nonstop,” Bugge said.

To work successfully as a team, the crew selected a rotating watch shift where each team has two members on watch at a time.

“We have two teams, A and B. Willy and I are in A and Beau and Chris are in B,” Bugge added. “We stagger the relief times so that there are always two on deck to sail and there are no gaps in turnover data.”

With this system, the crew get four hours of time between shifts to sleep, eat, refresh and write blog posts.

“It can get tiring, but it’s working well,” Bugge said. “It’s a good story to keep a guy humble and prove how it’s important to work as a team.”

During their first stop to Seiku, the boat ended up cutting the corner around a 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 and called out to the crew who was on deck,” Bugge said. “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.”

Although they have faced some challenges along the way, the crew encountered a wondrous sight as they sailed from Seiku to Cape Flattery, Washington at sunset.

“That night we passed through a massive pod of humpbacks, we even had two within a few feet of the boat! Yesterday, we had Pacific white-sided dolphins riding our bow wake for over an hour. Pretty amazing sight,” Bugge said.

Winds have changed as they approach the Hawaiian waters. Overcoming and tackling obstacles along the journey has been an adventure for the four-man crew as they approach Hawaii at average speeds. As they face the challenges of the open sea, their journey continues to their destination — Pearl Harbor.

“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 members and the boat,” said Brian Bugge, skipper of the Stay Gold crew.

“I’m 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,” he said.

With minimal sleep, dead batteries and a malfunctioning backstay (part of the sail rigging), they always keep their spirits high and work as a team to keep the boat moving.

Along the voyage, they spot a few albatross — said to be 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,” Bugge said. “Let’s hope so.”

After their first week out to sea, their voyage has been more relaxing.

“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 [degrees magnetic] — you tend to find lots of things to love about it after hours and hours of staring at a compass in the dark of night. You makeup songs, special names…there is even talk of some serious commitment to ‘210.’ Possibly in the form of a tattoo,” Bugge said.

For tracking the weather conditions and communication, the crew uses an IridiumGo and Predict Wind to stay connected with the world while they are out to sea on the boat. This allows them the ability to post updates to their Facebook page, blog and have access to email.

“The responses to our blog and Facebook posts are amazing. We feel the love!” said Bugge as he thanks everyone on his blogpost for sharing and liking their posts.

As they motored on in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the time under the motor has given them the opportunity to relax, change batteries and catch up on reading despite having to shout to talk to someone four feet away.

“Beau finally picked ‘John Adams’ by David Mccollough. I’m working through ‘True Spirit’ by Jessica Watson. Willy is reading ‘Blood Meridian’ by Cormac Mccarthy and Chris is reading ‘Adventures at Sea in the Great Age of Sail,'” Bugge said.

Earlier in the afternoon that day, the crew comes across a pod of dolphins and whales.

“It was hard to tell. We thought they were Orcas at first but after they came closer they seemed like really big dolphins,” Bugge said.

As weather conditions continue to change and the wind started to pick up, they make it to the middle of the Pacific — closer to Hawaii.

“We made it to the trades! Pineapple-tinis…here we come!” said Bugge excited to make landfall.

While the tradewinds picked up, they reach 70 miles in the last nine hours.

“That’s quick for a 36-foot sailboat; we were able to keep a layline for Hawaii. The boat and crew are holding up well and we are in good spirits enjoying the ride.

The night before was magical as they witness the bioluminescence in the water.

“As the hull cut through the waves it would leave a trail of brightly shimmering creatures on the waters surface. You could look out from the boat, in the pitch black, and see the crests of the waves as they disrupted the water surface what would normally be white water glowed in the dark,” Bugge said.

“It looked like something out of a children’s book; or another world even! So beautiful, it just reminds me how much there is to discover about the world we live in and how much of it is right in front of our eyes.”

As they made progress towards Honolulu, they were all getting anxious to get off the boat and get some downtime, take a good shower and sleep in a clean bed…to name a few things.

“We’ve seen a few aircraft flying overhead…first signs of civilization after venturing through 1500 miles of uninhabited badlands. The ocean is huge, it really makes one feel insignificant,” Bugge said.

This voyage has been a lifelong dream for Bugge and his crew as motivation drove them to take on this Pacific adventure.

“I had to do this voyage, I’ve recently realized, because I needed to know who I am,” said Bugge as he continues to share what motivated him.

“Ashley has encouraged me to live my life to the fullest, not anyone else’s. I didn’t even know what that was until recently. We have kids now, bills, houses and cars. Surely it wouldn’t be possible to undertake something as massive as crossing an ocean in a 36-foot sailboat. Her encouraging spirit has sparked my inner vision for who I am and what I want from life,” Bugge said.

“I can say with confidence — I am a Sailor. Through and through.”

After three weeks of sailing, their lifelong dream to sail across the Pacific from Gig Harbor to Pearl Harbor has been fulfilled.

As Brian Bugge described his Pacific voyage with salt in their eyes, wind in their hair and sea in their hearts, he and his crew prepped for their arrival at Rainbow Bay Marina on July 27 after 21 days at sea, sailing from Washington State to Hawaii on a 36-foot boat.

While approaching land, sailing passed Molokai, Lanai and Maui, Bugge described how they fought to break swells of the winds waves while being pushed around the boat.

“Beau [one of the crew members] had to fight 30-foot breaking swells off Molokai and I had 35 knot gusts of wind pushing to over 10 knots of sustained boat speed — but we made it,” Bugge said. “We hand-steered 2,500 nautical miles half way across the Pacific.”

During the last leg of their sail approaching Rainbow Bay Marina, they were towed in port and welcomed by family who flew in to welcome them to Hawaii.

“Coming home from sea is a strange transition,” Bugge said.” “You’d think it’s the opposite of leaving life on land to a life beating on the rhythm of the ocean but it’s different — at least for me,” he said.

With his time out at sea, Bugge explained the realities of the transition.

“You learn to lean in to it, to trust it, to enjoy it. It becomes warm, inviting and safe,” he said.

“The boat is not only your home but your best friend. It’s because you grow fond of them, to love them and look at them with affection. It might sound strange at first, but when you’re 1,000 miles from land in any direction, it becomes clear.”

Shifting from sea life to land life, thoughts of what they will do when they hit port, what to eat and drink, came to mind.

“For a week or so after getting back from sea, I still feel like I’m in transition, but soon it passes,” Bugge said. “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,” Bugge said.

This Pacific voyage will bring on more adventures for the crew to look forward to in the future. Brian’s lifelong dream of sailing the Pacific has become a reality and his adventure with his wife Ashley and their family in Hawaii has just begun. 

By U.S. Navy Anna Marie General
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2018

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