Isbjorn Offshore: Riding the Azores High

Before we dive into the start of our trans-Atlantic, let's recap our arrival and layover in Bermuda. If you haven't seen it yet, check out a few videos we posted on our Instagram ( and Facebook pages ( - they show better than I can tell how it went down.

We had a SERIOUSLY gnarly arrival in Bermuda, the wind building and building from the SW as we made landfall south of Gibb's Hill light. We made it all the way on celestial, so it was special seeing the lighthouse appear before the dawn right where we'd hoped it'd be. Cool stuff. With the sunrise came the wind, but gradually at first. I'd shaken the reefs once the sun came up and about six other boats were visible ('We are PASSING them!' I commanded). And we did, blowing by all of them as the wind built and we aimed for the finish line at the Spit Buoy.

The SW'ly had built to 30 knots as we crossed. Isbjorn was SMOKING, sailing 9 knots in the flat water behind the lee of Bermuda. And the wind continued to build as we entered the anchorage. By mid-morning we were hanging on the hook with our fingers crossed, winds gusting to 44 knots and boats dragging all around us. It was touch and go for three hours until the little mini but intense low passed to the east.

And then Bermuda was beautiful as usual for the next five days. We tied up at the town docks and enjoyed the revelry ashore. Sojourner, my dads boat, arrived on Saturday afternoon and rafted alongside us. We saw them off on Tuesday, bound for the Chesapeake and home waters of Annapolis. Isbjorn departed Wednesday morning with the ARC Europe fleet, first across the start line in Class B.

May 18, 1200

130 miles run in our first 24 hours offshore. Last night was a motorboat ride. The wind shut down right outside Town Cut. Seas were calm offshore and the white noise of the iron genny put us all in a deep, comfortable sleep. I hate motoring, but I love sleeping, so a fair trade I suppose.

Isbjorn is sailing now, has been sailing since 0400 in a gentle northerly. Our course is NE as we aim for the stronger winds on top of the Azores High that we hope will carry us across to Europe.

We're flying the spinnaker on 90 degrees apparent, ghosting along a flat sea at 5 knots in only 7 knots of apparent breeze. She's an old, heavy boat, but boy does she like to sail! We heard Nalu lamenting on the VHF the fact they're motorsailing. I'm thankful for our extra tall rig and new sails.

No celestial this time around, though we are navigating on paper charts, using the IMRAY Chart 100 Atlantic Passage Chart. It shows straight lines as great circle routes, so in our nav briefing we pulled all the positions from our chosen route up north and laid them out on plotting sheets to get accurate compass courses for each 'leg'. As we traverse the ocean from west to east, our course will gradually bend from NNE-NE-ENE-E and finally ESE as we approach Horta. That's the quickest way from A to B across the round surface of the globe, and to take advantage of the breeze up north.

Off we go.