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Oakdale man sets sail on adventurous voyage
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Peter Metcalfe aboard Kessel as he sails the Pacific Ocean. Kessel, owned and operated by solo sailor Metcalfe, is a 1978 Hans Christian 38-foot sailboat. Photo Courtesy Of Marissa Neely

It is both fair and accurate to say that attending college in San Luis Obispo set the course for an adventure in Peter Metcalfe’s life that he never saw coming.

Metcalfe recently completed a solo sail from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to the French Polynesian Islands. A trip which took a total of 22 days.

“People that sail around the world on small boats, they call it the Coconut Milk Run,” Metcalfe explained. “It’s the easiest way to sail around the world and the shortest distance from Mexico to the South Seas. It’s the first stop on your way to the rest of the world.”

Now, as he floats among the beauty of the islands, he contemplates more than what’s next, but if it’s a journey he’ll take around the world.

A self -described adventure junkie, Metcalfe first found his love for sailing when he and some college roommates took up free diving. Metcalfe shared they had an interest in visiting the Channel Islands and began looking for a boat to buy, collectively, to get them there.

While watching YouTube videos on sailboats and sailing, the adventure seeker learned about sailing across oceans and even around the world.

“That blew my whole world paradigm apart,” he said, chuckling, “realizing people travel the world without buying a plane ticket. I had no idea.”

Over time, they secured a boat, sailed it and shared adventures.

Post-college, as a seasonal firefighter for Cal Fire, Metcalfe and a friend took the boat and sailed from Avila Beach to Mexico.

“In my off seasons, I got three to five months off a year, I’d go down to Mexico and sail that boat down there,” he said.

With his love of sailing growing and his interest in sailing across the Pacific and potentially the world growing, Metcalfe sold the initial boat and purchased Kessel. A 1978 Hans Christian 38’ sailboat, he initially found Kessel in Mexico, returned it to Avila Beach and spent the following two years restoring the boat.

“Because I’ve outfitted the boat to sail around the world and she’s in (as) good of shape as she’ll ever be in again, I feel like I’m doing myself an injustice to not give it a shot of potentially sailing the boat around the world,” he said. “I will never be in this position, this easily again.”

Now nine years after graduating from Oakdale Charter School, Metcalfe recognizes the uniqueness of the position he is in.

“The actual expenses are quite low. I saved a lot of money before leaving,” he said, noting his monthly expenses are less than $1,000 a month.

While he doesn’t have a sponsor, but would happily welcome one, he candidly shared that money is running out all the time, even though the expenses are low.

His current goal is to get to New Zealand before cyclone season and perhaps pick up a job there.

“I still don’t have that answer yet,” he said of the debate he has with himself of flying back to the U.S. to work during fire season and then continue on.

The sailor shared he had initially planned to sail to a certain point, sell the boat and return to the U.S. Now, after years of hard work and seeing his hard work come to fruition, he’s decided to keep Kessel.

“I still have worked on this boat in the yard more than I have sailed it,” he said.

Metcalfe also has enjoyed seeing a different side of life when he hits the water and lands somewhere new.

“Meeting these locals makes me wish I spoke French,” he noted of his current location, “because these people on these islands; they’re just so isolated and joyous.”

There are, however, always lots of variables to consider.

“The boat is designed to move under sail power,” he shared when discussing fuel consumption. “You only do it (use fuel) if there’s no wind. I have maybe burned 15 gallons of diesel since leaving Mexico.”

Metcalfe added that he carries 150 gallons of diesel with him at all times, which allows him 1000 miles of motor range.

As for food, the sailor lives off the water. A veteran of spear fishing, Metcalfe has had to learn the art of rod and reel fishing while sailing on Kessel.

“On passage I put out hand lines, which are spools you pull in by hand,” he said of his efforts from Mexico to the islands. “I lost seven lures and failed. I only caught one fish the entire 22 days at sea.”

Frustrated by his lack of fish, he picked up a book on fishing while in the Marquesas Islands. Additionally, he asked his sister to bring fishing gear when she came for a one-week visit.

“I saw almost immediate success,” he said of learning to line fish. “I’m still learning, but it’s a pretty steep learning curve.”

Noting that there is fish in the freezer he added, “I call that a win.”

While Metcalfe has made a number of friends on “buddy boats,” during his travels, having his sister visit was what he termed as a definite highlight of the trip thus far. Confessing that being on his own during the 22-day tour to the Islands did get lonely and boring at times.

“All you want to do is be back on a couch and not be salty wet and not have waves coming over and getting thrown out of your bunk at night,” he said of moments during the solo excursion. “Or just having someone else make you coffee.”

Yet this opportunity of a lifetime and unique goal turned experience is not being wasted on Metcalfe.

“I’m not on land very much. Most of the time I’m just playing in the water,” he said. “There’s no marinas in South Polynesia, so we’re always on anchor. It’s like a dream come true though.”

It was a dream several years in the making.

“It’s been a goal for seven years,” he continued. “So a culmination of reading, research and obsessing over this one thing. It came with a lot of reading and watching and investing all of my time in learning through others’ experiences the best that I could.

“It’s a very stark contrast to the U.S. and Mexico. Life has slowed down a lot,” he said of being in the Islands.

Plans for now, are to stay in French Polynesia for the duration of his Visa, with plans set on visiting Tahiti and Bora Bora. By August he will travel off to Cook Island, which is governed by New Zealand and then visit Fiji for a month. Lastly, of the current plan, the sailor has set his sights on dropping anchor in New Zealand this fall, which is their summer.

“The Pacific Ocean leg is the largest ocean leg in the world. So there will not be another passage of that length in my future, unless I choose to be a masochist in that way,” he said of his future at sea plans. “Everything revolves around the water. I’m a very activities-based person. I can’t really sit and just do nothing. A lot of my day is half filled with cleaning the boat. The boat gets cleaned every day. I feel like I’m always cleaning.”

Reached via phone for this interview, Metcalfe summarized his outlook from his boat in the middle of the still blue water, sharing a bit more about what “life” looks like thousands of miles away from home.

“It’s like a dream come true,” he admitted of the sailing venture. “It’s like the Jimmy Buffet postcard with white sand and palm trees. Very much what all the sacrifice and working on the boat the last four or five years was for. It’s pretty surreal to be here right now.”

To follow Metcalfe’s adventure, visit his Instagram page kessel_underway.

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Fresh fish is always on the menu when aboard Kessel. This dinner was caught fresh by sailor Peter Metcalfe. Photo Courtesy Of Peter Metcalfe
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Oakdale Charter School alum Peter Metcalfe is all smiles as he sits aboard his 38-foot sailboat Kessel during a passage. Photo Courtesy Of Peter Metcalfe
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The adventure continues for solo sailor Peter Metcalfe, who recently completed a 22-day solo sail from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to the French Polynesian Islands. Photo Courtesy Of Marissa Neely