Former Teacher, 25, Reveals Scariest Moment Yet While Attempting to Sail Across Globe — Alone (Exclusive)

Luke Hartley tells PEOPLE he expects to spend as many as five years sailing

<p>sailing_songbird/TikTok</p> Luke Hartley


Luke Hartley

Ask Luke Hartley where he's headed and he's likely to get at least a little philosophical.

"Part of this life is going with the flow and following the winds," 25-year-old Hartley tells PEOPLE.

But "following the winds" is also a very literal mode of life for Hartley, who left land on October 7, 2023, and has been sailing the open seas ever since.

Hartley is now charting a course to circumnavigate the world in his 27-foot sailboat, Songbird — a journey he expects to take "around five years."

"Five years is the collectively understood leisurely pace in the sailing community for a circumnavigation," Hartley says.

There will be stops during those five years, of course — to fuel the boat and stock up on food, for instance — though there are also week-long stretches during which Hartley is alone on the open water.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Related: Why Are Thousands of Lego Pieces Washing Up on Beaches? The Answer Lies in a 1997 Cargo Ship Spill (Exclusive)

The former middle school teacher set sail from Seattle and has since dealt with storms, high winds and sea life (like a pod of porpoises who surrounded his boat recently). And he's shared almost every step of the way on social media, garnering millions of views on both Instagram and TikTok.

Hartley's content includes offering glimpses of the more extraordinary moments (like getting an alert in the middle of the night that an oil tanker was within two miles of his vessel) as well as the more mundane (like how he keeps 40 days' worth of eggs for his Pacific passage covered in Vaseline, to extend their shelf life).

Hartley also answers questions — like the hundreds he receives about how he sleeps on the boat (his answer: usually poorly, due to the sleeping quarters often getting wet during moments of high winds that sends sea water within the boat).

He also shares looks at his meals, which often include fresh bread made by using a bottle of wine in lieu of a rolling pin and fried on a portable stove top, or fish that he catches and cooks on board.

With all the time spent alone, he also offers a look into how he wiles away the day when not navigating — by playing guitar, making celebratory music videos, reading, and watching movies he downloaded before leaving land.

One of the scariest moments thus far, he tells PEOPLE, was "my first time leaving the safety of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and being exposed to the open North Pacific swell."

"All of a sudden, I was met with 30-foot waves and huge offshore winds. I was caught with too much sail up, so the boat was dangerously overpowered," he explains. "I had to turn the boat 180 degrees around, in order to face the wind [and] in order to drop enough sail to have a balanced boat. As I turned the boat around to drop sail, I had to expose the side of my boat to 30-foot swell."

While he says the moment was "the most dangerous" his boat has ever experienced, he's quick to add: "it's no horror story!"

"I timed the maneuver perfectly between waves and got the boat under control and continued on to Mexico," he adds.

<p>sailing_songbird/TikTok</p> Luke Hartley


Luke Hartley

Hartley admits that his trip has been exhilarating — even during the moments most would find terrifying.

"My passage from the Columbia River to San Francisco was wild," he says. "Songbird was riding the edge of a hurricane-sized storm in Alaska and sailed south in sustained 30 knot winds and 30-foot seas for six days straight, 24-hours a day. Songbird was 150 miles offshore in late October and that week was the coldest I have ever been in my life."

As for how he's able to update his followers on his progress, he has the boat's power grid set up to be "fully self-sufficient," harnessing solar energy to charge a battery bank and accessing the internet via Starlink.

The technology allows Hartley, who has admitted in at least one video it can be hard to be alone for such long stretches of time, connection with millions around the world.

And for him, the journey is only just beginning.

"We are excited to get started and move forward," he says.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.