The First Voyage of Isbjörn: Offshore (Eventually)

After the rescue, we continued motor boating for nearly the next 24 hours. Unlike the previous week on the DelMarVa rally, where we scooted out the Canal and down the Bay at a cool 8 knots, riding a fair tide the whole way, we bucked the tide this time, making only 4-4.5 knots under power nearly all the way to Cape May. When we did finally get within site of the ocean itself, the wind was on the nose and light.

We started tacking anyway, taking advantage of the calm seas to teach the gang how to sail by the telltales efficiently, and keep the boat moving to windward. We put in one long board towards Cape May Lighthouse, then another down towards Lewes, Delaware, dodging the car ferries and the shipping traffic all the while in that busy part of the Bay. It was calm enough to skirt pretty close to the shoals off Cape May, so we crossed some 20 and 30-foot spots when we could finally lay our course and get into the ocean! Our last tack put us onto starboard, making 7-8 knots finally free of the foul tide, and we rode it right the way up the New Jersey coast.

Once offshore, it was going to be another 600 miles to Lunenburg…

Night Watch

0239. Dark, with no moon, no stars. Low cloud cover. Thankfully no fog. John is on his first solo watch outside and I'm hiding down below at the nav station pretending to be asleep. At dinner earlier today (my signature three-bean chili, made with ground turkey for a change), I proposed letting the crew stand watch tonight alone. Until now we'd been watch keeping in pairs. Solo night watches are a big part of why I like it out here so much. Just you, the boat, and your thoughts & the infinite universe to contemplate. I wanted to share that with the gang, if they were up for it.

Sean & John took my offer. Dan & Charly were more comfortable together, which was best anyway as it was still foggy on their watch and more eyes and ears are a good thing in that case. John drew the lucky straw - we'd motored all through Dan & Charly's and Sean's watches, but as John got dressed, Sean & I hoisted the genoa and got underway again and were back sailing, finally bang on course after a frustrating 24 hours of calms and headwinds. 

It's getting awfully chilly - I hesitate to say 'cold', because for god's sake it's July, but it's definitely the coolest it's been. Getting out of bed, all warm & cozy and sleeping deeply by the consistent throbbing hum of the diesel, I was actually shivering. Two thoughts occurred to me then: one, 'eff this idea of sailing to Greenland!'; and two, 'well, maybe we can, but not without a heater,' but I'm up now, fully dressed (wearing my down jacket under my foulies which was the best purchase I made this year) and with a hot cup of coffee in my system and my core temperature is back where it belongs. I'll trade 90-degree heat for 50-degrees and fog anytime.


I went for a swim earlier this morning during a flat calm. My intention was to clean the barnacles from the prop that I'd noticed a few days prior when it was too rough to do anything about. Charly loaned me his Petzl leather gloves (he works for the outdoor company and is probably the most well-equipped crew on the trip, save for maybe Dan who brought a sextant!). Once I dove in though I chickened out. The water felt freezing - I guessed maybe 15 degrees Celsius - but that wasn't the problem (I actually love a cold water dip). The larger issue was that the water was also very dark. I couldn't see the prop when I stuck my head under. Diving under the boat is freaky enough when you can see. The barnacles will live to see another day. Sean was filming the whole episode on his GoPro, and I'm sure I let out a few girlish yelps and then simply climbed back aboard. I told him he's not allowed to publish! A freshwater rinse and some hot coffee and I was thoroughly invigorated to start the day.

I haven't written anything on this trip save for a few very short Facebook posts via the YB tracker (which is super cool, by the way. More on that later). I haven't read anything either, which is a drastic change from my norm when I go offshore. Thus far, I've just focused on sailing the boat and enjoying the company of the crew, more specifically my watch partner John. After 24 hours of Mia & I doing 4-on-4-off alongside the crew's routine of 3-on-9-off, we switched things up and did 3 watches of 3 hours each. Me & John, Mia & Sean and Dan & Charly. Dan's probably the most experienced sailor of the gang, having crossed the Atlantic in the 1980s, and I felt he & Charly could manage on their own. 

Sail Changes

After finally getting out of the Delaware Bay and offshore, we enjoyed 3 full days of very fast sailing. The wind varied only slightly between SE and SW, and remained remarkably consistent at around 10-12 knots. The inaugural Isbjörn crew was getting very spoiled.

On Day 3 we did a bunch of sail changes, starting with setting the pole and hoisting the symmetrical spinnaker. This has been a voyage of discovery for Mia and I too as we learn the new boat, and I happily discovered when prepping for the trip that we do indeed have a big downwind sail. It's old and thin, made at the Naval Academy in 1990 (and marked with the boats old USNA name 'Insurgent') but it flies! With no snuffer on the sail it took all of us to launch it, but it was a textbook hoist and we marched on downwind for several hours under the big kite and through thick fog. We'd passed Nantucket by then and had sea room to run off to the north into the Gulf of Maine.

By afternoon, we needed to head back up to avoid the shallowest part of George's Bank, which drops below 30 feet at times (remarkably, as it's almost 100 miles offshore). We doused the chute (another textbook maneuver I'm very pleased to say, though I was anxious about it) and then set about another 4 sail changes. First, unfurling and dropping the heavy 135% genoa and then flaking it on deck. Then hoisting the light 'drifter', which turned out to be a major disappointment (it's a lot smaller than I'd hoped). Then dropping and flaking that and re-hoisting the heavy genoa, only after failing twice when the halyard fouled on the foil. We all slept rather well that evening.