Isbjorn Offshore: Upwind to Lunenburg

Isbjorn's latest position as of 4pm Friday. You can see the kink in their course thanks to the new NE'ly wind that sprung up earlier this afternoon.

While I’ve been recovering from my recent appendectomy at my cousin’s house outside Boston (it was cupcake baking day with the kids!), Mia, Liz, Dennis & the gang on Isbjorn have been having a chilly and foggy ride north from Newport. I’ve been in semi-regular contact with them since they departed Tuesday morning, sending and receiving a few short messages per day via the YB Tracker we keep onboard.

It was spinnaker sailing for the first day out from Newport. Once around Nantucket, we opted to route the boat outside around Georges Bank in the hopes of keeping the following breeze for longer. Fog would be in the mix regardless, as WRI warned in their briefing prior to departing Newport:

Fog will be a similar concern for this option, with dense coverage from 70W to Lunenburg, due to the warmer, moist air moving in from the SE over the much colder Gulf of Maine waters. This is unavoidable unfortunately.

So the crew got some real-life training in keeping a proper radar watch.

We’d done a dry-run on the radar when we first came around Cape May, in clear weather, to show everyone how it works. Isbjorn has a 10-12 year-old Garmin multi-function display and radome that I’d considered replacing earlier this year. But it works just fine. I showed the guys how to spin up the radar, identify targets (which was easy to confirm, as they were visible as well), and how to use the VRM function to set bearing lines and range circles on a target. If we stay on a stable course and the target remains on the bearing line while moving inside the circle, it’s a classic CBDR situation - a collision course. But so long as the target moves off that line, we won’t have any trouble.

They used this in practice yesterday in the thick, damp fog that hung over the boat all day coming around Georges Bank, annoyingly dripping off the backstay and onto the helmsman. The wind died to boot, so it was a mostly motor boating passage until this morning. The targets that did appear on radar also were transmitting on AIS, which was an added bonus. But radar, in the fog, was their primary means of tracking ships and boats. 

The new holding tank we installed the week before departure is now clogged. It gravity-feeds overboard when we're offshore and works really smoothly, but there is no real way to unclog it if gravity stops feeding it! Mia was hoping that some hard upwind sailing would knock it loose (which it likely will), but we may consider sticking a manual pump in the discharge line to ‘assist’ the gravity feed. There is no pump out in Lunenburg, so I hope it fixes itself! They’ve been using the composting head back aft in the meantime.

Around midday today Isbjorn had 150 miles to go to Lunenburg and had finally picked up a breeze, albeit from the wrong quadrant. As forecast, a northeasterly sprung up just after noon. I’d sent a detailed weather briefing to the boat this morning from GRIB sources and the Canadian Met Office and recommended to Mia that they consider changing out the big genoa for the smaller one while the wind was still light. So that was this morning’s project, and it paid off. At the last update, winds were 15-20 from the NE, right on the nose. The small genoa - about a 105% - should set very well fully unfurled, and they’re probably running a full mainsail, perhaps one reef. Much better than a partially furled 135% genoa and easier to tack to boot. The big genoa is a handful to flake and wrangle into it’s bag once it’s down on deck, but with 6 onboard, I’m sure they had no trouble. And it’s all part of the fun really!

I’m off to Logan tomorrow morning to catch a 9:05 flight up to Halifax and a quick taxi ride over to Lunenburg. I’d considered waiting until Sunday to give myself one more day in a bed with a hot shower nearby to recover some more, but I didn’t want to miss out on the crew’s excitement of making a new landfall, so I’m off tomorrow! I'll try to get one more update and some photos posted once I talk to the crew tomorrow. Then it's a quick turnaround for us, as the crew for Leg 7, the St. John's leg, arrives on Monday!