From Gig to Pearl, Part II: Eventful encounters

Anna General

Managing Editor,Ho’okele Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

(Editor’s note: This article is part II of “A Sailor’s Pacific voyage – from Gig to Pearl,” published in the July 14 edition. Brian Bugge is currently a U.S. Navy chief who will be promoted to a U.S. naval officer at Commander, Submarine Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet.)

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.

What did they see glowing in the dark? Read next week’s installment… To follow their voyage visit

Photos courtesy of Brian and Ashley Bugge

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Category: News