The First Voyage of Isbjörn: Ashore in Lunenburg & Some Final Thoughts...

Of course one of the greatest things about ocean voyaging is exploring your landfall! My dad and I used to wonder, especially after particularly challenging passages, if we did it for the sailing, or did it for the payoff at the other end. I’m still not sure there is a clear answer to that. It’s obvious a bit of both, and the challenge of getting to that far-off land under your own effort over such a comparatively long time is what makes it so cool, and so unique in our modern time. The average air traveler will never have any concept of how large the world actually is. We ocean sailors know better.

Unbeknownst to us, just as we were getting ready to raise anchor and look for a place to tie up in town, the famous Bluenose II schooner was making its way into the harbor under full sail. It was a Saturday, and they’d decided to make a grand entrance into their berth adjacent to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. We had a front row seat on Isbjörn, the last boat out in the anchorage, and the big ship sailed by us about 100 yards off. What a sight!

Perhaps because of this, the town was packed. There’s about 6-feet of tide here in Lunenburg, so a lot of the big commercial fishing wharves, which are made of large wooden pilings, have small floating docks alongside for recreational boats. There’s only room for half a dozen yachts on these docks though, and there wasn’t going to be any for us that day. Instead, we took a little harbor tour and re-anchored Isbjörn pretty much right where we’d started, and took turns in the dinghy, trying out the new Torqueedo electric outboard to ferry the crew ashore. I’ll write more about that later, but it’s so cool! Stealth mode.

As you might imagine, our first stop was the pub. John found us a sweet spot on an outdoor deck, overlooking the waterfront, which included views of the Bluenose, with Isbjörn in the background and the colorful town in the foreground. Being that we’re a dry boat offshore, a pint or two is more than enough to get you in the right mood, and we enjoyed some of the local flavors. Mia and I shared a big pot of local mussels, with a side of bacon-wrapped scallops right from the boat we could literally see from the deck. Not bad at all! Dan, for his part, enjoyed a chocolate milkshake and made me laugh!

We meandered round town without much of a plan, and wound up at the Boat Locker, the local chandlery, where they did, in fact have a slip for us at their floating dock if we moved some dinghies around. My friend and mentor John Kretschmer had only just been there the week before, en route to Newfoundland on his Kaufman 47 Quetzal. I’m sorry I missed him. Mia, Dan and I went out to Isbjörn to bring her into the slip, while Charly, Sean and John set about moving said dinghies and catching our dock lines. We strolled some more and had a group dinner at the Grand Banker, with more scallops and local beer. The Canadian dollar is $1 to $.87, so the food was even more reasonably priced that it appeared on the menu. The lot of us walked down the road to the Knot Pub for a nightcap – pints of Guinness around – and crashed again by 11pm back aboard the boat.

So, What Did I Think of Isbjörn’s First Passage?

As I write, again at the Sweet Indulgence Cafe, a day after starting this marathon blog post, we’re two hours away from receiving the crew for the next leg of the passage back to Annapolis and home. We said goodbye to Dan, Charly, John & Sean yesterday afternoon, and frankly, it was sad to see them go. You get to know people in that offshore environment rather intimately, to say the least, and I think we six became close friends by the end of that trip. It warmed my heart to see the four of them planning their journey home together – they shared a taxi to Halifax, where they booked two hotel rooms at the same place so they’d be able to catch their flights out this morning. It’s impossible to market this feeling, but you truly to make close friends on these types of trips, and I honestly hope I see those guys again down the line, whether or not they come sailing with me.

As for Mia and I, we couldn’t me more thrilled at how well everything went. We did a lot of re-hashing in the 24 hours since the crew left (joking that they probably left a hidden microphone onboard so they’d hear us talking about them!). Isbjörn sailed phenomenally – in only 5 knots of breeze from the beam, we could make 5 knots of boat speed, allowing us to sail through a lot of calm spells that would have had lesser boats motoring.  The wind never even closely approached a strength at which we felt we’d need to reef, but on the Swan’s reputation alone, I’m confident she’ll do just as well in heavy weather.

I haven’t asked the crew specifically, but I felt the accommodation arrangement worked great. John & Dan occupied the pilot berths in the salon, while Charly & Sean took the veeberth. When Charly got a little seasick, he moved out to the settee berth, setup with the lee cloth, and never missed a beat. It’s why we book only 4 bunks when we could cram in 6 – that veeberth is no fun in rough weather, so I want to leave the option open for an easier place to sleep, while still allowing private gear storage forward and not needing to hot-bunk.

As well as the boat sailed though, these trips are about the people, and I feel like both Mia and I have made four new friends now. Dan, John, Charly & Sean all took a chance on us in signing up for the first-ever passage, and they’ll forever have a special place with us and aboard the boat. Each crew signs the logbook at the end of the passage, and their four names will always be on the top of that list. So thank you guys for believing in us.

(And please spread the gospel!)

Until next time…