From Gig to Pearl, part III: Journey fulfilled


Beau Romero, Deckhand: Bugge’s cousin, first time sailing. A fifth grade teacher and world traveler.
Brian Bugge, Skipper: Husband, father, currently a USN chief, (soon to be) naval officer, photographer, scuba diver, USCG licensed captain and ASA sailing instructor.
Chris Ryder, Navigator: A crack navigator. Chris has lived, literally, all over the world.
Willy Kunkle, First Mate: A professional sailor, captain and musician.
Courtesy photo

Anna General

Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

(Editor’s note: This article is part III, continued from “From Gig to Pearl, Part II: Eventful encounters,” published in the July 21 edition. Brian Bugge, a U.S. Navy chief who sails with his crew members on a lifelong voyage from Washington to Hawaii. Bugge will be promoted to a U.S. naval officer at his next duty station at Commander, Submarine Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Hawaii.)

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.

To read more, visit (Next week: The celebration at Rainbow Bay Marina.)

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