Saturday, July 29, 2017

Learning: Stay Gold

For a Navy Chief about to become a naval officer, a trip from Gig Harbor, Washington to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in a 36-foot sailboat "Stay Gold" became a lifetime adventure. Brian Bugge ("Boogie") and his crew mates Beau Romero, Willy Kunkle and Chris Ryder completed the journey this week, a journey and learning experience made possible because of the love and support of Brian's wife, Ashley. Anna General, editor of Navy Region Hawaii's "Ho'okele" published a three-part series about the team's adventure, "From Gig to Pearl," available at Of course, Navy Reads focused in on what was on the crew's reading list. Here are some excerpts of Anna's series:

by Anna General

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Bugge received orders to transfer to Commander, Submarine Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet Hawaii and will be promoted to an Ensign Limited Duty Officer on Aug. 1.

(Courtesy Stay Gold)
Prior to receiving his orders to transfer, Bugge had 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.

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.”

Ashley Bugge said, “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.’”

(Photo from NOAA)
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.

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.

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.

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 (who hadn't decided what to pick from Stay Gold's library) finally picked 'John Adams' by David McCullough. I’m working through 'True Spirit' by Jessica Watson (the story of an Australian teenager's around-the-world sailing adventure)," Bugge said. 

"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.

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.

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…

“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.

Brian Bugge arrives in Pearl Harbor July 27. (Photo by MC1 Hinton)
(Stay Gold arrived safely in Pearl Harbor early on July 27, 2017.) 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.”

(From Stay Gold's blog: "Ashley is a big reason why we are here ... 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 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.")

[Learning: Also on Brian's reading list: "Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation" by Thich Nhat Hanh, Thich Nhat Hanh, Penguin Random House (1999)]

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