ISBJORN OFFSHORE: Sail fast, to get to the pub!

June 17, 2017

A grey evening 120 miles off the west coast of Ireland. Grey ocean, grey horizon. A very fine mist hangs in the air, and while the fog has come and gone over the past 24 hours, the visibility is good currently. A variety of seabirds circle the boat, gannets among them which is a sure sign of land drawing nearer. As are the fishing boats. We've had a dozen or so at any given time appear on AIS, meandering around haphazardly at 2-3 knots, only one coming close enough to get a visual on. It was a good opportunity to teach the crew how to use the radar and what a target looks like on screen.

Isbjorn sails fast under spinnaker on a waning breeze, 8.5 knots steady and surfing into the tens once in a while, 11.7 our top speed today. We're racing towards Ireland now, committed to making a detour en route to Oban mainly because we're about to run out of wind. Since we're ahead of schedule, I'd rather spend two days exploring Inishmore than bobbing around under power going 4.5 knots offshore. We waited as long as possible to make the call to let the weather play out, and today at noon finally gybed the genoa off the pole and set the chute. Isbjorn's been hauling the mail ever since, and we're hoping to make landfall in time for a visit to the pub tomorrow night!

Two days ago (I think) we spliced up some new lazy jacks, a project I've been meaning to do ever since we bought the boat, but which never made it to the top of the list. I told Bruce that I love these uneventful passages - I get more work done on the boat than I do dockside. There's no distractions out here.

Once the new lines were made up, I went aloft, just to the lower spreaders, to fit them. We were sailing fast downwind, wing on wing in a lumpy sea, so it was a bit sporty in the bosun's chair, but we managed. Martha & Bruce belayed me on the spare genoa halyard while I climbed and a Mia filmed. Harold & Mac had the con in the cockpit. Now we've got shiny new dyneema lazy jacks with no blocks or hardware to chafe on the mainsail. I also spliced a cover onto the tail of the control end part that secures the lazy jacks to the boom. A little less slippery on the hands and the cleat.

We've made a very fast passage thus far, averaging over 160 miles per day, and going over 170 for three days in a row now. Nothing at all like what I expected for these parts. I was mentally prepared for a hard, wet & windy windward slog to Scotland, but instead it's been all downhill (so far at least - we're not there yet). In some strange way I'm almost disappointed. I was looking forward to the mental & physical test of a really tough passage. Not that I'm complaining at all, believe me I'll take this all summer long!

It feels neat that we're north of 50 now, and going farther still. The long twilights in these parts are something special, and there's nothing like the northern sky on a clear evening.