Note from Andy: "This post was written by our friend and Isbjorn's racing skipper Paul Exner, of moderngeographic.com. Paul writes from Chiapas, Mexico, where he's onboard his Cape George Cutter 'Solstice,' that he built himself. He's en route to Hawaii, relocating his family after Hurricane Irma destroyed their home and way of life on Tortola in the BVI. Family & heavy weather is on Paul's mind as he readies 'Solstice' to cross the Pacific...
On Sunday Mia & I made the pilgrimage to the west coast of Sweden to check in on Isbjörn for the first time since September. That was the last time we had seen the boat. Back then, she was still afloat, her rig standing, but stripped bare of sails and gear, on deck and down below. We’d emptied nearly everything off the boat in anticipation of the big winter refit. Sometime in late September, after we’d gone back to the USA for boat show in Annapolis, the gang at Vindö Marin pulled the rig and hauled her out, transferring her into the main heated workshop underneath the Vindö Marin offices.
It’s been a LONG time since I talked much about the business on here, and, now three years in (almost) and at the dawn of a new year, I feel like this is as good a time as any. I’m writing and recording this in real-time, by the way - as I write this, it’s just before 1000 SWE time on Tuesday January 2, the day this will release.
Mia & I spent a lot of yesterday afternoon, January 1, reflecting on 2017 and planning ahead for 2018, across the business. The big question that we kept reminding ourselves of was the overall mission statement of 59 North. What, exactly, do we do, what do we WANT to do, and HOW do we accomplish that without getting sidetracked.
These are some of the memories of my South Pacific journey that this book I’m reading is churning up. I’m surprised they’re coming back in such detail. Despite the whisky, I can see the bamboo walls on the interior of my little hut on that island in the morning light when Alex banged on my door to go surfing. I was slam-bang hammered that morning, with no right to remember anything. But they’re there, clear memories from that tumultuous time, when everything changed.
I wonder when they’re going to have to change the height restrictions on the ICW? Sea level rise is absolutely a real thing, and we didn’t see a single bridge that actually showed the full, advertised 65’ of vertical clearance since leaving Norfolk. Part of it was due to the Super Moon, but most of the locals we spoke to in Melbourne said it’s been high all year, and I read reports on Active Captain as old as 2011 that stated that the Wabasso Bridge was showing low clearances back then.
Our first night out was a ripper. Meri has no pole, so we sailed gybing angles in the following wind, opting to head offshore first with two reefs in the main and the full genoa. The NE'ly that had us on the inside for two days was still blowing, kicking up a boisterous sea, short and steep over the shallow water. Down below it was hard to sleep with the rolling, one of the more frustrating motions offshore. I laid on my back, and each time Meri rolled, my head would roll with her, jostling me awake. Eventually you learn how to curl up and hunker down against the motion, but the first night is always tiring.
We anchored s/v Meri just off the ICW last night around mile marker 265. A nice-looking 35-footer called Valkyrie was anchoring in a similar spot, just to the east of the channel in the only little hole of deep water. He called us up on the VHF as we waited for him to find his spot before moving in ourselves. The sun had gone over the horizon, leaving a brilliant orange glow to the south, that faded into a clear, deep blue sky overhead, with the first stars starting to resolve into view. The white glow of the chartplotter at the helm station illuminated my dad’s face as he concentrated on piloting us in the cross current.
I feel much better about our plan now, having bought some supplies at West Marine. We got 40’ of dyneema and some basic splicing tools so I can make some strops and stuff for the boat. I bought two Harken air blocks for the outboard genoa tracks, to get a better sheeting angle off the wind on the headsail. And to use on the bow for the mainsail preventer. I bought two rolls of sail repair tape and a ‘handy stitcher’. And a pair of ‘Seal Skinz’ gloves - temps are forecast to be in the mid-30s for the next few mornings, and offshore that air will feel even colder sitting in the cockpit.
We’re motoring down the ICW now towards the Cape Fear inlet, another 100 miles on past Beaufort, where we’ll go offshore tomorrow. Motoring on the ‘inside’ for two days will only save us about 12 hours in the big picture (as opposed to just waiting in Beaufort until Saturday morning). But it gives us something to do, a purpose. I made hard-boiled eggs for breakfast that we ate in the cockpit. Soft enough on the inside to be nice to eat, but not runny.
Stuck in Beaufort. Rain pours from the sky, heavier now than it’s been all morning. Any last inkling of going offshore today has been officially washed out.
Dad, Tom & I borrowed the car from the Three Nice Guys at the Beaufort Docks marina and drove to Atlantic Beach for a midday breakfast at the Four Corners Diner, then on to West Marine to get a few supplies. Because that’s what you do during a weather delay.
I am super excited to tell you about a book project i have been involved with during the fall.
Together with 10 Swedish Sailors, we have each written a chapter in the book "Mot en Ny Horisont". All proceeds will go directly towards donation in the aftermath of Irma & Marina that hit the Caribbean earlier this fall.
The book is currently available in Swedish and Danish, and maybe one day it will be translated into English and other languages?
Well ... the clean-up is immense, a belief shared by many BVI-islanders. There are very few easy solutions to rectify the entanglement of owners, insurers, businesses, and other vested interests. Everyone is trying to do the right thing, but the negotiations are not clear-cut, and it's just about the most complex thing I've ever witnessed ... -Paul Exner, October 16, 2017.
From Paul: "We struggle to leave our home of 8 years in Josiah’s Bay. Liz and I lived there since we met, our babies Eoin and Ava came home there after birth. We weathered IRMA there, and survived. We accept the wasteland-vista we see from our balcony: leafless and twisted trees, and scattered debris that once beheld the homes of others … Josiah’s Bay is the way it is, and was hit hard by IRMA. Most dwellings there and elsewhere on Tortola are gone. Within the BVI territory I estimate 50% of land-based, and 90% of sea-based accommodation is not habitable by ANY standard … wall-less, roofless, capsized, or sunk respectively … vehicles are windowless, over-turned, or tumbled-down a mountain side.
Heart of goodness and darkness. Liz, Eoin, and Ava are in good spirits after Irma. We were in the eye for 52 minutes which means we got a direct hit. Too dangerous to asses wind speed accurately but I believe we had winds over 200 knots. We were fine until the balcony doors blew in then hell broke loose. -Paul Exner.
Photo shows his boat, Solstice, on the hard in Nanny Cay, right in the center. He doesn't even know the state of his boat yet, as he's on the other side of the island...
HUGE thanks to Isbjorn crewmember Brian Bonter for putting together this awesome video from this past February's RORC Caribbean 600 Race in Antigua! Crew included: Andy, Mia, Paul Exner (Racing Skipper), Rory Finneran (Mate), Brian Bonter (made this movie!), Ryan Bradfield, Dan Shea, Thomas Sarlandie, John Duggan & Brian Theodore. Music in the video by St. Paul de Vence & Blaggards.
Tuesday, Aug. 29, 5-8 PM.
Join us for a Happy Hour and Open House aboard Isbjorn at Wasahamnen, Djurgården (Stockholm, Sweden). Check out the boat, share stories and chat about the podcast!
This is open to everyone who wants to come by and say hi and check out the boat - bring your friends!
Isbjorn made the front page of the local 'Nya Åland' newspaper in Mariehamn! The headline translates roughly to '7,000 Miles Sailed for Algot's Baptism.' Basically, Mia's best friend is from Åland, and we're now godparents to her first son, Algot. We had planned all along to have the baptism after our season was over, but hadn't actually planned to sail here! When the crew wanted to visit Åland, and since we had some time, we ended the last passage here and they took the ferry home.
We're back in Marstrand, but we're supposed to be in Stockholm! Isbjorn made landfall here in July after crossing the North Sea from Shetland. Anyhow, my dad and some sailing friends from the Chesapeake, Tom & Darlene, joined us here in Marstrand for what was supposed to be a fun delivery/cruise around the bottom of Sweden and up into the Baltic and to Stockholm, where our next trip with crew would begin. That plan got scuttled almost immediately - on our second day on the boat, we had a gnarly beat against a strong southerly wind and a wickedly short, steep chop...
What a special trip! Crew met up with isbjorn at Oban Marina on the small island of Kerrera just outside of the town of Oban. The trip started with day sails and exploring the islands, some amazing anchorage such as Loch Scavaig on south of Isle of Skye. We got to enjoy a few Whisky tastings at Tobermory and Talisker and local music in several pubs!
After an amazing trip though Scotland, we set out on the first night sail up to Stornoway on the outer Hebrides. Thanks to amazing after and a big high pressure system over us we got to spend 24 hr at Fair Isle and then a few days in Shetland before setting of across the North Sea to the island of Marstrand on the West Coast of Sweden!
*SOUND ON FOR SOME BAGPIPES!* #Isbjornsailing & crew have been having a BLAST exploring Scotland for the past week! We put together a short highlight reel of some of our favorite spots, including sailing around Ardnamurchan, the western-most point in the UK, hiking in the Cuillin Hills & watching seals in Loch Scavaig! Andy recorded the music live at the Old Inn on the Isle of Skye during a late-night session with local musicians & lots of whisky!