Isbjorn Offshore: Moseying Downwind

May 18, 1000

The wind is sloooowly filling in from the NNW. We motored all night after trying to tack offshore once through Town Cut, 18 hours in total, setting sail finally at 0400 this morning. When the sea is flat we can make 4-5 knots in only 6-7 knots apparent, close-reaching. When the odd wave slews the boat around the sails slat and we slow right down. The forecast is in our favor though - if it holds true, it looks like we'll have wind, and behind us, for the next ten days...


All hands on deck for a spinnaker set. The wind came aft just enough, and it's just light enough, that we think we can carry the A-sail on 90 apparent and make some better way.

Thane, David (who sailed with us in the fall on the Caribbean 1500), and Brenda (Thane's wife) and I go forward to rig the spinnaker. Mia is filming and Kevin ('Mac' - more on him later) stays in the cockpit to handle the sheets. We rig the sail on the bow this time, as opposed to the pole, knowing we'll be sailing it pretty tight to the wind, more like a big drifter than a downwind spinnaker.

The crew manages a flawless hoist & set, and Isbjorn is off to the races under a sparkling blue sky, brilliant yellow sun and friendly, puffy white cumulus.


Dinner is cleaned up. Time to go aloft.

The wind slowly backed into the NW through the day and we're broad reaching now, still under the chute. I rig the bosun's chair and setup the camera gear to get some video aloft in the fading light of day, the magic hour before sunset. The swell is up, so it makes my climb a bit tricky. At the masthead I tie myself in with a safety line and set about filming. The big white spinnaker billows out ahead and to starboard of me. The crew appears small far below in the cockpit. Up high, my horizon has expanded dramatically - at deck level, the crew can see maybe 3 miles. 70-feet off the water from my perch up high, I can see maybe 25.

Mia & Mac gently lower me back on deck. We decide to douse he chute before dark. The wind is up a touch, and Isbjorn is sailing fast. But again I've got to decide between monitoring a nighttime spinnaker run or getting my sleep, so I choose the latter. The crew manages a perfect douse - 'You guys are pros!' I shout from the helm - and the sail gets stowed down below. We set the genoa on the pole. Isbjorn sails wing on wing through the night, and I get my sleep in peace.

May 19/20

I wish I had more to say, but we've continued under the poled-out rig since Thursday night, pleasantly sailing across the top of the high, albeit slowly. It's Saturday morning now and we're still cruising in light westerlies, wing on wing, slowly making our way ENE. We gybed the whole rig a couple of times, which requires a bit of effort - currently there are no less than FOUR control lines on the genoa. The sheet through the end of the pole, then three lines - topper, foreguy, afterguy - controlling the pole itself. Plus mainsheet & preventer on the mainsail boom. So a gybe takes some time and effort, but in light airs and a reasonably calm sea, it's not difficult.

The wind is lighter than the GRIB forecast suggests, so we're angling back to the north a bit in search of more. We know a big low is lurking to the NW. It's strength and position will dictate how much wind we get after the coming cold front, so we're hesitant to go TOO far north, but don't want to sail south and right out of the breeze altogether.

Twelve hours from now we should have our answer.

A Bit About the Crew

Thane & Brenda: Thane joined us back in Tortola for the sail up to Bermuda, where his wife Brenda met us and joined Isbjorn. The pair sailed their own Bavaria 39 across the Atlantic from east to west in 2014 - double-handed - with the ARC+ fleet. They're boat remains in Puerto Rico and they're with Isbjorn as a means to 'test' this northerly route to Europe in hopes of doing it on their own someday.

David: David's on his second passage with Isbjorn. He sailed south with us in the fall from the Chesapeake to Tortola. He hails from Boston and races Hobie Cats and F-18's locally there. He's now onboard for our two longest passages to date. David is also our tallest crew to date, so he's sleeping in the forepeak, the only bunk he can fit in!

Kevin, aka 'Mac': Mac is in the running for most interesting Isbjorn crew to date. At 61, Mac is newly retired. On May 1, he walked out of his Texas ranch, backpack & seabag in hand, hitch-hiked to the train station, rode the rails to NYC, hopped on a cruise ship for Bermuda and is sailing with us all the way to Scotland (and he's not a sailor, taking some lessons once specifically for this trip). From Scotland Mac will meander overland through the U.K., steam across the English Channel, make his way to St. Petersburg via Scandinavia and jump on the Trans-Siberian railroad across Russia. Another cruise will take him to Perth, OZ, then the overland train through the great Australian outback to Sydney. From there he's booked passage on a container ship to cross the Pacific to Oakland, CA, from whence he'll return overland to Texas, thereby completing a solo circumnavigation by land & sea. He's writing about it too, so check out to read about his adventure.