Rough Days…

There is an aspect of spending time at sea that lends itself to an unusual sort of loneliness. It’s strange, you’re surrounded by people yet you feel this twinge of being alone.

Deployments on a submarine are where I’ve felt it the most. Surrounded by 130 souls and sometimes it feels like you might as well be out there by yourself. Here, it’s a bit different. The four of us have grown closer and bonded over shared triumphs, toasts to victory and defeat. We tell life stories, we solve problems giving the celebratory high five after success. Living in close quarters, you grow close quickly. We are lucky to have such a great crew. One person who doesn’t get along or has a negative attitude can throw off the entire vibe. Nevertheless you miss home, friends, family, etc. It seems to intensify about half way through the journey.

Today I was a bit out of sorts. Wasn’t feeling myself. I’ve spent enough time at sea to know it was just a bit of a mental slump with some loneliness in there and didn’t allow myself to get too wrapped up in it or make poor offhanded comments that could affect the rest of the crew. They noticed though, it’s impossible not to. The best thing I’ve learned to do is accept it, try to work through it and understand it for what it is; just you mentally coping with a long term stressful situation.

This isn’t fun like going to the amusement park. This isn’t enjoyable like dinner at Applebee’s (am I right Ryder?!). There are moments where those emotions emerge, but overall there is stress to cope with. There are problems to solve. There is a constant state of potential danger that exists. We aren’t sitting on the sun deck getting served Pineapple Juice and Rum while getting our feet massaged.

We are changing sail configurations at 3am on a pitching foredeck. No one has showered in 12 days. We are eating dehydrated meals, nuts, bars and peanut butter and jelly. We are having hard conversations about pending weather patterns and the right course to steer to make landfall. We are managing interpersonal relationships in an environment filled with stress and the unknown; constantly changing variables. We are living, cooking, cleaning, sleeping and generally existing within a 10 x 15 foot space.

Today we passed south of 30 degrees North. We are, quite literally, 1000 nautical miles from civilization. That’s about the same as standing in Seattle and having EMTs, the Fire Department, tow truck, etc somewhere around Minneapolis. We are on our own. The danger is real. There is no help around the corner. The USCG range is about 500 nautical miles from land.

This is a challenge. And it helps to recognize that. To embrace it for what it is. To mentally acknowledge that what we are doing isn’t easy, but in the end will be an achievement and totally worth it. In the end, nothing worthwhile comes easy.

Even though it sounds like we are gluttons for punishment and I might be coming across a bit dramatic; we knew this what we were getting into. We wanted to test ourselves, the ship – against the Pacific. We set out to do exactly what we are accomplishing. THAT is why we are doing this, not because it’s “fun”.

We appreciate all the comments, shares, likes etc on our stories. It makes us feel supported! Keep it up! We will keep them coming! Also, just to let you know – we can’t see the comments left here – no regular internet out here. Just email. Please don’t feel like we are ignoring you because we haven’t commented back.

Don’t forget to check us out on Instagram: @svstaygold and check out our Crew Gear on the website!

Until then…Stay Gold

One day at sea

You sleep in two or three-hour naps, hopefully twice per day.
You awake to the sound of water rushing against the fiberglass hull, spare halyards rapping about the aluminum spars.
Your shipmates lie several feet away in the cabin you share, the size of a garden tool shed, constantly rolling, pitching, yawing to the motion of the sea. You use the rhythmic lurch of the boat to aim water into the kettle.
These tight quarters have honestly earned the aroma of four grown men that haven’t bathed in a week and a half.
You get up and boil water on the propane two-burner to make a pot of coffee for yourself and the helmsman you are about to relieve.
The waking hours are spent tending to the tiller, making makeshift repairs to whatever broke the night before, and whipping the frayed ends of sheets and spare line. There is never nothing to do.
You plan your course for the next few days, which will undoubtedly change due to impending lows or maddening calms.
There is a wind shift so you change sails. You stick out the fishing line, take a sextant sun-sight, plot the noon position, coil lines in the cockpit, and the wind shifts again, so you change the sails.
You and your mates shoot the breeze, curse like sailors and trade stories of past adventures and future ones. And the tall tale you currently inhabit is written thus.
You tell dirty jokes and take the piss and learn to know these other three lunatics with whom you share this tiny, tiny vessel on this vast, vast ocean.
You see flying fish frantically dart from the surface, evading some unknown predator beneath.
You watch the gulls and the terns and if you’re lucky an albatross, and wonder what they could possibly be doing, so far out here, a thousand miles from any thing. And they watch you, surely wondering the same.
In the evening you and your company take a glass of rum or whiskey or wine, and share personal victories and defeats, shared failures, cock-ups and insights, and watch the sun slowly descend past the horizon. You read a chapter in your book before your evening nap.
Your alarm goes off at 23:45, giving you enough time to gear up with foulies and harness to be on deck for your midnight watch handover.
The night is spent surfing down phosphorescent following flurries of swell, sending the neon bioluminescent trail of fairy dust from the transom into your endless wake, the undulate past.
You are flying through space, barreling through the darkest darkness toward an obscure group of volcanic peaks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, marveling at the same stars and planets that your ancestors did, and theirs before.
You breathe in the energy of the wind and the salt sea and the celestial bodies, and the soul of your vessel is also yours, and you are more connected with your surroundings than you’ve ever been.
When you settle in to your lee-cloth you are energized and exhausted, and you’ve never been more content with so little. You will sleep well, for two or three hours.
Goodnight, sailor. Steady on.

-Willy Kunkle
31* 44.3’ N / 139* 20.7’ W

Going Dark…

We are low on batteries. Cloudy day today and not much power from the solar panel. Shutting down the Iridium to conserve power, so we won’t be plotting positions on the tracker.

All is well. We witnessed a spectacular sunset tonight.

Will report back in tomorrow morning.

Until then…Stay Gold

Zen and the Art of the Spinnaker

The first week of the passage we stood rotating port and starboard 4 hour watches. The way it worked was Beau would come on watch at noon, I would come on at 2pm, Ryder would come on at 4pm and Willy would come on at 6pm. We would stand four hours of watch and then be off for four hours until your next watch.

This gave us two people on deck at a time, four hours of watch and four hours off. It was exhausting. You never get more than a couple of hours of sleep, maybe two. We switched to one person on deck and one on standby so the last half of your watch you can sleep but might be called on if needed. We try to respect others downtime as much as possible.

With this rotation we all stand solo night watches, under sail. It’s magical. Seriously. There is something so perfect about sailing at night in the middle of the ocean, so far from anything and everything. I’ve never felt more connected to the sea.

These night watches give all the time to think. I brought an iPod so I’ll listen to music which gives a bit of a “soundtrack to an epic movie” vibe for my watches. But, also lots of time to ponder.

The seas have been a bit confused lately and we will get bigger than the average ocean driven swells off the port or starboard quarter based on our tack. This tends to make the boat a bit squirrelly for a moment.

This was happening the other night and I kept thinking; “Man…these swells are terrible!”. But the more I thought about it the more I came to the conclusion that there are no bad swells. The swells just…are. They exist. They are not bad or good. The wind moves along the water, far far away from where we are. The air particles create friction and drive the water particles. They energy builds up over time and soon you have a swell.

But the swell is neither good or bad. It doesn’t care who or what you are. In reality, it’s how we react to these swells that matter. How we trim the boat, configure the sail plan, react with the tiller. Those create a more peaceful, powerful boat or one that is unbalanced and noisy with a terrible motion.

The swells continue on. They don’t change, for good or bad based on what we do. They just…are.

Things happen in life. Events occur. People say and do things to, for, against us. Those moments just…are. Swells come and go, but it’s how we trim the sails and react that creates a balanced boat. I’m feeling very…zen…out here lately.

We’ve had the 1.5 ounce spinnaker up for most of the day, 10-15 knots of wind out of the NNE, small 4-6 foot swells out of the North. We are making about 6-7 knots, nearly due south. We are trying to get away from an area of high pressure coming in from the north. The weather is beautiful, morale is high, rum is running freely and we are on top of the world.

From the crew of Stay Gold, here’s to your Monday being just as spectacular.

Quick Update

We are running low on batteries and diesel fuel. It’s a bit of a compounded problem. Sort of a chicken/egg thing. But, details are boring. So suffice it to say that if the sun isn’t shining, our solar panel isn’t putting out which means our Iridium Go might shut off. The Iridium Go is how we send our emails, SMS, blog posts and our updated positions.

In other words, if you see us go dark, don’t fret. We are just waiting for the sun to shine.

In the meantime, we are safe, happy and making great time under spinnaker to the south.

<3,

Stay Gold and Her Always Posi Crew

Why Are We Doing This

I think it’s a fair question to ask. Why, why spend all the time, money, sacrifice, burden the family, etc to make this voyage? Why sail 2300 miles across an ocean when we could have just shipped or even sold the boat. It’s simple for me.

Because it’s there. Because I have to.

If you listen quietly, intently, you’ll hear a small voice inside telling you who you are. What you must do. The things that are most important. This is what I’m after.

I had to do this voyage, I’ve recently realized, because I needed to know who I am. This is a complex subject for anyone and not anything that can be surmised in a blog post. But, I think the why is important. What’s the motivation.

The past 15 years of my life I’ve lived by other people’s rules. Societal, relationship, jobs. They were very restrictive. I felt restrained. Confined. Never that it was possible to make such and epic journey such as this. That I was capable or worthy.

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. Mortgages. Surely it wouldn’t be possible to undertake something as massive as crossing an ocean in a 36′ sailboat. Her encouraging spirit has sparked my inner vision for who I am and what I want from life.

I can say with confidence; I am a sailor. Through and through. This is where I want to be. That’s not the only thing that defines me as I am a proud dad and husband. Of course, I love my family, home, etc but – out here I feel alive in a completely different way. It’s not better or worse than when I am with them, but it’s where I feel alive in a different way. It’s almost too much to put into words.

I had always thought I loved the sea, after so many deployments on submarines, summers spent at the coast, sailing around the Puget Sound. But I always wanted more. To test myself. To face up. Thoreau wrote “Men go back to the mountains and sailing ships at sea because on the mountains and the sea we must face up”.

I felt unsatisfied; as if I knew I wanted to be a swimmer but was only able to put my feet into the pool and kick around a bit. How could I test myself, see if this really was who I am.

This past week and a half at sea have solidified who I am and what I want, personally. I want to sail. Be on the sea. It’s so deep inside me it’s undeniable. It’s more than that though, seafaring will develop and uncover your deepest character strengths and flaws. That is where we find who we really are.

These revelations are the “why”. That’s what I’m after. I knew, instinctually, this voyage would define my sense of self and it had to happen for me to find satisfaction. Now, what’s the next challenge?

Until then…Stay Gold

PS – thank you all so much for the support, please continue to like, share and comment! Check out our Crew Gear for sale on the website!

Why Are We Doing This

I think it’s a fair question to ask. Why, why spend all the time, money, sacrifice, burden the family, etc to make this voyage? Why sail 2300 miles across an ocean when we could have just shipped or even sold the boat. It’s simple for me.

Because it’s there. Because I have to.

If you listen quietly, intently, you’ll hear a small voice inside telling you who you are. What you must do. The things that are most important. This is what I’m after.

I had to do this voyage, I’ve recently realized, because I needed to know who I am. This is a complex subject for anyone and not anything that can be surmised in a blog post. But, I think the why is important. What’s the motivation.

The past 15 years of my life I’ve lived by other people’s rules. Societal, relationship, jobs. They were very restrictive. I felt restrained. Confined. Never that it was possible to make such and epic journey such as this. That I was capable or worthy.

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. Mortgages. Surely it wouldn’t be possible to undertake something as massive as crossing an ocean in a 36′ sailboat. Her encouraging spirit has sparked my inner vision for who I am and what I want from life.

I can say with confidence; I am a sailor. Through and through. This is where I want to be. That’s not the only thing that defines me as I am a proud dad and husband. Of course, I love my family, home, etc but – out here I feel alive in a completely different way. It’s not better or worse than when I am with them, but it’s where I feel alive in a different way. It’s almost too much to put into words.

I had always thought I loved the sea, after so many deployments on submarines, summers spent at the coast, sailing around the Puget Sound. But I always wanted more. To test myself. To face up. Thoreau wrote “Men go back to the mountains and sailing ships at sea because on the mountains and the sea we must face up”.

I felt unsatisfied; as if I knew I wanted to be a swimmer but was only able to put my feet into the pool and kick around a bit. How could I test myself, see if this really was who I am.

This past week and a half at sea have solidified who I am and what I want, personally. I want to sail. Be on the sea. It’s so deep inside me it’s undeniable. It’s more than that though, seafaring will develop and uncover your deepest character strengths and flaws. That is where we find who we really are.

These revelations are the “why”. That’s what I’m after. I knew, instinctually, this voyage would define my sense of self and it had to happen for me to find satisfaction. Now, what’s the next challenge?

16 July, 2017 11:44

[Welcome to the Tradewinds!]

By Stay Gold crew member Chris Ryder

It’s nights like last night that keep the expression “curse like a sailor” alive and afloat.
Earlier, after much debate on whether to head south or west, Willy saved the day with his so-called “twizzle-rig” (2 headsails and no mainsail) which enabled us to run downwind on ideal SW course.
We were all enthralled with how well it worked…my only concern was what if the wind were to pick up? How could we de-power that much canvas quickly? Brian assured me that winds would remain stable through the night and thus I began my lonely 10 to midnight watch.
With zero ambient light your only world is the dimly lit compass. That’s the only data point you have to keep the boat running on smooth and on course; that and the jerky motions of the swells hitting you from every side. For one hour and 45 minutes of my 2 hour watch that’s what I did, without any issue and making a good solid 6 knots. I was starting to look forward to some sleep when suddenly by beard filled with warm air…a lot of warm air…too much warm air for our little boat and that much canvas!
Within seconds I was reading 10 knots on the instrument and the boat was wobbling atop the crest of the swells, vibrating from the overpowering wind! It was all I could do to hold the boat from broaching (turning over sideways). I needed help from the rest of the crew fast as my biceps were giving out on the tiller. Since Willy had awoken to relieve my watch I saw him in the cabin and said, “Hey man, I think I might need some help up here”…a bit of an understatement, but we all feel bad for each other’s lack of sleep these days.
We were speeding along dangerously (without seeing where to and whence forth) and we needed to get one sail down immediately. This is where the cursing takes hold…Chris, hold the $&@? boat up! Brian we $&:;?! need you on deck now! Turn on the @&£¥* deck lights! Everyone sprang into action (we let Beau sleep, because technically it was already his birthday).
I have to say, what followed was truly a sight…the deck lights over-illuminating Willy and Brian (in his skivvies) and myself pulling hard at the helm, the spray of the swells pouring over the deck. But we managed to get the sail down and de-power the boat, saving us from what was almost imminent at this point.
The aftermath was full of adrenaline-laden comments (££#*@&!) analysis of what had just happened. The warm winds on my beard? Yup, the trade winds…what a fine welcome.

Flying Fish! That’s Trade Wind Shit!

Happy Birthday Beau Beau!!! It’s a tradition, on ones birthday, at sea, to have to commit some heinous act of self disgrace to appease the gods of the deep. No need for them to feel as if we think of our “special day” more important than safe passage across these barren waters, their waters! It’s typically up to the Skipper what the punishment will be…but it should be humbling. We do have that Turtle that could use a good scrubbing…

Nevertheless, all you land lubbers should feel free to wish Beau Happy 33rd Birthday! Not a finer way to pass a birthday than LITERALLY in the middle of the Pacific. We are 1000 miles from Cape Flattery, 800 miles from LA, and 1300 miles from Hawaii. We are quite on our own out here. Well outside the USCG range to provide rescue, if we needed assistance it could possibly be airdropped but most likely it would come from a passing ship. Just a visual; we’ve seen three ships since July 7th. This voyage is just as much about preparation, seamanship and sailing as it is about self reliance.

The swells and winds are picking up to a spritely 20 with gusts to 25 knots. The weather was nice enough to stand my night watch barefoot with a light jacket on. We are solidly into the Trades.

We’ve made 70 miles in the last 9 hours. That’s quick for a 36′ boat. We are able to keep a layline for Hawaii. Boat and crew are holding up well. We are in good spirits and enjoying the ride. Didn’t get much sleep last night but Ryder will fill you guys in on why shortly.

The bioluminescence in the water last night was nothing short of magical. 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. 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.

We’ve been visited by a few flying fish as well. We’ve passed orders to Skip to be on high alert. Time he did something useful.

Until then…Stay Gold