Isbjorn Offshore: A Good Day's Run

6 May, 0800

An early morning for Isbjorn's crew. We're all rested after a night of teetotaling in preparation for today's departure. The boat's ready to go...the afternoon before we basically completed the pre-departure checklist. All that's left this morning is to top up the water tanks, unplug the shore power and pay our bill at Nanny Cay.

The crew's assembled in the cockpit for the morning briefing, our last at the dock. Mia & I complete the orientation now that we've finished stowing all the provisions. I assign roles for the start - Mike & Tom will be job trimmers, Cheryl's on main sheet, Thane is spotting and Mia's on general assist.

The temperature in the marina is HOT, even at 8 o'clock n the morning. All of us look forward to getting out in the high seas and into cooler air. There is no breeze to speak of at the dock, blocked in by the hotel and the forest of masts. From here on out we'll be sailing ever farther north, in to colder water and cooler climes. I'm ready to add some layers and say goodbye to the Caribbean.

Sojourner, my dad's boat, is parked nose to nose with us on B dock. We've spent the week helping each other prep. He's off to Bermuda too, but while we head east to Horta, he'll aim west for the Chesapeake and Annapolis, home. I take a short walk over after the briefing and give him one last hug and we say our proper farewells. It is only the second time we've both gone offshore at the same time but on different boats.


Ten minutes until the start. Normally I could care less about the racing side of sailing. But truthfully I'm a competitive person at heart and can't help myself but get dialed in for the ARC Europe starting line.

We position Isbjorn to the south of the line and will aim for the committee boat end. The course is clear over here, and it'll allow us to run in on starboard, with rights. Everyone else lines up to the west and will make a run at the line on port. It's a broad reaching start, wind 15 knots from the southeast.


Three minutes to go. We're running for the line on starboard as planned, almost dead downwind and not sailing fast enough to make the gun. We get inside another boat, an aluminum Ovni, get an overlap on him in a good position. Pure Elegance, a sleek & sexy Dufour 56, blasts across on port, first over the line. My heart is pounding in my chest with adrenaline as we approach the committee boat and jibe across the line, in fourth or fifth position. We're close enough to Lyall and the gang to practically high five them! A beautiful dark blueX-50 pops their chute and overtakes us to port. She's such a lovely sight I don't even mind! We follow her and Pure Elegance into the Narrows.


After a few jibes through the Narrows by St. John, were offshore close abeam of Jost van Dyke, our departure from the Virgin Islands. It's the last time Isbjorn will be here, at least until 2019 and maybe longer. It feels good to be off on new adventures. We're on a mission now to get the boat to Sweden this season, and ultimately north to 77 north next summer in Svalbard. Every leg of the way from now on is moving us towards that goal. Mia & I like that mission-based sailing, as opposed to aimlessly cruising. But to each his own. We're the third boat around Jost, having passed a few others right after the start. Only two of the big guys flying spinnakers are ahead.


We set an added challenge of completing this passage to Bermuda entirely on celestial. On Thursday & Friday we spent two days teaching the crew in the relative comfort of the air conditioned boardroom at the marina.

Our first evening out and it's time for our first star sights. We'd planned where to look for the best navigational stars at twilight, and like clockwork, the first few started appearing about 20 minutes after sunset. All the crew had a chance to shoot some stars, using the Moitessier method of removing the scope and keeping both eyes open, thereby increasing your field of view and making it much easier to get an accurate altitude. We got sights on Betelgeuse, Arcturus, Capella & Jupiter. The log read 39 miles since our last fix at Jost.

7 May, 0700

We didn't do anything with the sight data from last night. The crew didn't have their sea legs yet to sit at the nav station doing math, and I went to bed. By 0700 this morning the log read 120 miles from Jost. We'd gone a long way without fixing our position.

I set about reducing the star sights and plotting their LOPs. I'd forgotten how to reduce planets, so skipped Jupiter. And while Betelgeuse and Arcturus made for easy sights given their brightness and ease of identification, they weren't useful together as they were almost exactly opposed in the sky. Their LOPs weren't at enough of an angle for a good cross.

Capella and Arcturus were, so I got a good two star fix that put us a few miles ahead of and to the west of our DR position. I should emphasize that we're truly making this passage under celestial and DR. The distance log I keep mentioning is derived from the boats speed through the water, NOT our SOG, which would come from the GPS. In fact I installed a new paddle wheel sensor just before departure just for the this purpose. The irony of doing this within the ARC Europe fleet is that with the YB Tracker, the rest of the fleet will know exactly where we are from the daily emailed position reports!


As I write, Mike is working out the AM sun line he got around 0900 on watch with Thane. Mikes got an iron stomach apparently. Thane retreated to the cockpit after a few glances at the almanac, and both Cheryl and Tom have fed the fishes already.

The sailing is perfect - bright blue skies blend into deep blue ocean and white puffy tradewind clouds are scattered overhead (though some Hugh cirrus in the west foretells the approaching cold front we know is on the way). Isbjorn bowls along on a beam reach making 8 knots through the water in 15 knots apparent. The log reads 180 miles since crossing the start line exactly 24 hours ago, a great day's run.

We'll get an afternoon sun line and plot a running fix to get today's position, then start hunting for stars again at twilight.