ICEBEAR Offshore // Back to the North!

That calm sea! Like mercury, truly unreal.

0526, June 7 2019 // Sunrise over a silvery sea. The dawn came early today as we move north and east, light showing on the horizon by 0300, the sun peeking over the horizon two hours later. Overnight we’ve gone from summer to winter. The air is cold with this northerly wind, the fog from last night has lifted and a tickle of breeze has returned from the northeast. We hoisted the mainsail about half an hour ago, and when I’m done writing this, we’ll set the genoa and attempt to mosey along under sail.

I hadn’t given a thought to the fact that we’re headed north again. Not just north, like from the Caribbean to Bermuda is a ‘northerly’ course, but north, as in towards THE north. We’ve only just crossed the 40th parallel, but it feels like an altogether different ocean here. The water is darker, colder. The air crisper. The sunrises and sunsets linger longer.

We’ve earned this crisp cold morning. On departing Annapolis, Matt & I debated whether to stop short in Cape May or Lewes and let a strong cold front blow over before proceeding. The forecast called for winds from the SW in the 20s and 30s, and WRI warned of the possibility of severe thunderstorms and squalls. Matt, of course, never doubted we should go for it.

Mark at the helm at the height of the southwesterly, winds 35-40, heavy rain and 8-10’ seas.

“This is what the crew signed up for!” Matt said excitedly. He wasn’t wrong. Almost everyone who sails with us says one of their goals is to experience some heavy weather in a ‘controlled’ environment, with us in charge. Great, I always thing. I don’t want heavy weather!

Despite some misgivings, I agreed with Matt. The GRIBs didn’t look nearly as dramatic as the text forecast sounded, so we went for it. We’re might pay a price, we thought, but at least we’d have 36 hours of fast downwind sailing before the front overtook us, come what may.

ISBJORN got a head-start on her passage to Newport, leaving Annapolis just after dawn.

That finally happened yesterday morning. Earlier that night we handed the mainsail, which already had a triple reef in it, just in case the squalls forecast were stronger than anticipated. It was blowing close to 30 most of the night, but I wanted to keep the mainsail up to help stabilize the rolling. Just before sending Mia to bed though, my gut feeling said to get rid of it, so her and the crew pulled it down and we carried on under partially furled genoa, still making 7-8 knots.

Reefed WAY down and still rollin’.

I slept through the worst of it. Dick woke me up at 0600 pounding on the aft cabin hatch and shouting down that “boy, it’s really raining out here and we’re seeing 40 knots on the wind meter!” Just then I was thankful to have the mainsail down, and ICEBEAR cannonballed downwind at 8 knots, even more stable in the swell given the extra speed boost. The boat was loving it. By the time I got up and got my gear on, the worst of that little squall had passed, and that in turned was the worst of it all. We heard some distant thunder and saw some very distant flashed of lightning, but otherwise, besides the rain, it was a nonevent. And we covered just under 400 miles in the first 48 hours, so the payoff was well worth the 6 hours or so of unpleasantness.

Ben & Lauren, ICEBEAR crew and creator of the new ‘Out the Gate’ sailing podcast, enjoying the crisp morning.

After the front the fog rolled in and the wind died, so last night was spent under power making securite calls on the VHF to warn other traffic of our presence in the soupy mist. Lauren & Ben had one ship call them back to inform them of their presence, but otherwise it was a quiet if not rolly night, with no sails up to stabilize the boat in the leftover swell. When I got up to check on the watch change at 0300 the fog was gone, the stars were out and the cold arrived.

Fogbound! After the front came the fog, and a bit of breeze the next day. Cool drone shots, but a sketchy landing!

The GRIBs show light winds in a high pressure system as we close the coast of Nova Scotia. We’ve eased the throttle down to 1500 RPMs to save fuel, as it looks like after maybe a brief period of light-air sailing this morning, we’re going to be motoring again through tonight until we pick up the northwesterlies on the other side of the high. Thereafter though it should fill in and we should have a pleasant home stretch into Lunenburg, my favorite harbor in the world.

Mia drivin’ on a mercury-silver sea just after sunset.