0430 on Monday morning, April 1. 313 miles into our first real passage on ICE BEAR, the new-to-us Swan 59. We’re making 6-7 knots on a bit of a lumpy sea, with light, unsteady winds. Two hours ago a squall blew through and we had to reef the main and the genoa. Now, each time we try to sail deeper onto our course, the mainsail slats and bangs. I truly cannot complain though. Up to now we’ve had two extremely pleasant days of sailing, and even in the light breeze, ICE BEAR is FAST.
Crew arrived into Port Louis in Grenada. We’d meant to be anchored outside the city, but after the delivery south with Ricard & Jenni, at 2300, when Mia was about to lower the anchor on the sandbar just south of the channel, nothing happened when she pressed the windlass button. One more item on the to-fix list, which is growing dramatically. We parked at the megayacht slip and moved spaces next morning. The next few (very hot) days were spent getting the new boat ready for her first real passage in earnest with crew aboard - modifying the bunk beds in the crew cabins; re-wiring the windlass (which we did fix); throwing out more accumulated stuff; removing the old name from the sailcover.
Jenni came out to shadow our full-day briefing the day after we met her and the LTD Sailing gang for dinner at Umbrella’s on Grand Anse beach. The morning session was spent at the dock getting water tanks topped up and cleaning customs. Then we went out to anchor to get some breeze and swim and finish the safety, nav and weather briefings. Jenni hitched a ride back in with a local guy so we didn't have to launch our dinghy, which was already stowed for the passage.
Next morning we hoisted sail for a very brief blast up the coast to the underwater sculpture park off Moliniere Point. All the moorings were taken so Mia & I dropped the crew off next to the dive site and just drifted offshore while they explored. We anchored up again for the night just off the beach in 12 meters and did some more free diving before dinner. We left early the next morning, bound nonstop for San Juan.
Mia & I spent an hour the morning crew arrived to reflect on the past two months, the busiest of our careers, and discuss our feelings about the new boat. We haven’t bought anything yet - the deal was a one-year charter, with an option to buyout the owner - and my feelings have swayed from one extreme to the next, mostly depending on how tired I am. And I’ve been pretty damn tired over the past eight weeks, manning the repairs on ISBJORN following the Caribbean 600 race and getting the 59 sorted out and ready for crew.
In short, Mia & I are excited about the new boat and the opportunities we have with it, and yet terrified of how it’ll change our life. In many ways, getting this second, bigger boat, is a much bigger leap of faith than we took when we first started the business with the 48. The stakes are higher - with ISBJORN, if things went south, or if we just did’t feel like sailing anymore, we could transition to a life ashore and afford to keep the 48 as our own personal boat. Not anymore - the 59 is big, will be expensive to maintain and expensive to buy, which it’s looking more and more likely that will happen. It’s scary.
That said…what a boat! All it took for me to buy in were some of the first drone photos and videos of ICE BEAR making 8 knots effortlessly through a flat sea. She looks long and sexy from above, irresistible. I’m on this boat now, we’ve sailed her over 500 miles already and fat chance I’m giving her up now.
On leaving Grenada, the trades were still blowing strong, 20 knots with a southeasterly kink. We set one reef in the mainsail and the full genoa, and once clear of the wind shadow of the high island, right blasted off. I took a quick doze and woke up to see double-digit boat speeds on the GPS at the nav station, 10.6 the fastest at a glance. We reeled off 100 miles in the first 11 hours of the passage! Back in 2017, we set a speed record on ISBJORN on this very passage, one that still stands for the 48 under our stewardship, recording two days straight of over 200 miles. On ICE BEAR I was salivating after that fast start, thinking we’d smash ISBJORN’s daily run record on the first freaking passage.
It wasn’t to be. The wind shut down the first night and we (only!) managed 180 miles in that first day at sea. What surprises me most is how fast she is in light airs. Ghosting along on a fast sea earlier today, we still managed 5 knots with the sails barely pulling. We eventually gave up and motored to give the crew a chance to shower and eat dinner. The wind came back just before midnight.
It’s 80 miles to St. Croix now, and while I’d love to stop, we don’t have the time this time around. We’ll sail close by the east coast of the island - the USA’s eastern most point actually - then continue northwest through the Spanish Virgin Islands and around the tip of Puerto Rico towards San Juan.
Dad’s already there on ISBJORN, having sailed here over from Antigua over the past week with his cousins and some friends. They left Antigua and called at St. Bart’s, St. Martin, Anguilla, Jost van Dyke and finally Culebra before finishing in San Juan yesterday. He’ll be there waiting for us, and once again, both boats will be re-united. Then they’ll sail together to Key West, Bermuda and finally Annapolis.