ICEBEAR OFFSHORE // 8 Years at Sea

Today (June 18th) is Mia & my 8th wedding anniversary! I never know what to celebrate more - the day we met, on December 28, 2006. Or the day we got married, June 18, 2011. After that first day, the second day seemed inevitable.

One week after our wedding we flew back to the USA and prepared ARCTURUS for our first trans-Atlantic passage, leaving Annapolis harbor on July 4 (and forgetting the paper charts!), proceeding north and east to Newport first, then on up this way. We called at Lunenburg for the first time then (the last time I sailed with my mom), where we dropped my parents off and traded them for our friend Clint who joined us for the rest of the journey, continuing on to St. Pierre, our last stop before Ireland.

8 years later and we’re back in those same waters, on our third boat. ICEBEAR is traveling east and north, bound towards St. John’s after a wonderful and restful week in Lunenburg, our fifth stop in what has become our favorite port in the world.

Andy & Mia circa 2009, taking ARCTURUS down the ICW to Miami.

Calm weather sailing at sunset en route to Newfoundland in 2019.

We spent a lot of time catching up on ‘office’ work at the No. 9 coffee shop in town, a day out in the countryside on bicycles, and hours in front of the TV at the Grand Banker watching US Open golf. We each went running a couple of times. I watched movies nightly on my laptop, thanks to a chance meeting with our old Broadreach friend Daniel, who rocked up in town working as ship’s carpenter on the super yacht BELLA VITA. We spent the week resting and relaxing.


Crew joined on a Sunday, and a few of them joined me for the finish of the US Open which went late into the night. On Monday morning we weighted anchor early (well, by my sleep-in standards, around 0900) for a motorboat ride around to Mahone Bay, the only place we could get diesel. They used to bring a truck down to the wharf in Lunenburg, had done so three years prior when wed’ last visited on ISBJORN in 2016 (the year I got appendicitis offshore en route). Those days were over, so we had to motor some 15 miles to East River Marine, incidentally where John Harrie’s keeps his McCurdy 56 MORGAN’S CLOUD. He was out to ICEBEAR to record a podcast the morning crew arrived, and Mia & I had biked out to his cottage for dinner and to finally meet his wife Phyllis. We chatted about Svalbard and other adventures and ate curry for supper.

Refueing in Mahone Bay at East River Marine, where Chris Stanmore-Major & John Harries keep their boats in the off-season.

This is shaping up to be a challenging passage. My plan was to depart straight away on Monday afternoon to take advantage of calm weather to give everyone a chance to get their sea legs, and a chance for us to gain some time in the hopes of (finally) getting into one of the fjords on Newfoundland’s rugged and remote south coast. This will be our 3rd time up in these waters and I’ve yet to call in there. Something always gets in the way, be it schedules or weather.

We motored the first night after a brisk beam-reach out of Mahone Bay that gave us a rollicking start. ICEBEAR charged offshore at 8-9 knots while Mia served dinner, which we ate on a flat sea as the sun went down behind us. By dark, a blood-red full moon was on the rise, but the wind had died, so we dropped all sail and turned on the diesel. It’d be lunchtime until we were able to set sail again next day.

Evening drone flight on the first day at sea.

We’re a month earlier, in June, than we’d ever come up this was before, and there are a substantial amount of icebergs around Cape Race and up the east coast of Newfoundland. The highest concentration, 22 per degree of lat/long, right off the entrance to St. John’s according to the latest reports. I’m very hopeful we’ll see an iceberg on two on this passage. But therein lies the key - I want to actually see it.

In Svalbard last year, besides the occasional fogbank, visibility was no issue in the midnight sun. And in any case, there wasn’t really any ice offshore. The glacial ice tended to stay in the fjords and was more of a problem finding an anchorage than traversing the coast.

Not so here. We’ve got 6 hours of nighttime to contend with, and the prospect of more fog when the wind goes SE as we approach Cape Race in a day or two. And the bergs around the coast here and big ones, more like the one we saw off the coast of Iceland last summer on our way south, and much less like the little glacial bits we saw in the fjords of Spitsbergen. Which is good - they should show up on radar at least.

The last iceberg chart I downloaded before leaving Lunenburg.

Then layer the weather on top of that. Once again it looks like we’re going to miss Hare Bay, the one fjord I’ve really wanted to get into. In the medium-range forecast, a huge gale forms right over the south coast of Newfoundland, forecast to drop the barometer right down to 976mB, which is LOW, and bringing with it the associated strong winds and lousy weather. We’ve got very good window in the meantime to make it into Hare Bay, but as it stands now, we’d be stuck there for 3 days waiting out this big storm. It’s still all but 300 miles around to St. John’s from there, so almost before we had a chance to sniff it, we’re having to abandon that plan.

Careful with that coffee! WRI’s Jeremy Davis passing a hot cuppa to Bill in the cockpit.

So now what? We have a good window to go nonstop to St. John’s, but that means navigating around Cape Race in the dark and fog, with some 25 icebergs reported in the area as of this morning. But the wind will be light - 10-15 knots, so at least the weather will be settled.

Then we have the option to all at Trepassy, a small village on the south coast immediately west of Cape Race. The harbor looks very protected, and it will be an interesting place to ride out a gale for a few days, but we might miss our deadline. Crew are set to depart from St. John’s on the 25th, and as of the latest GRIB forecast, that big gale is still blowing over the area on the morning of the 23rd, as far out as our forecast goes.

Red moonrise at sea, the refraction in the atmosphere creating an eerie mirage on the horizon.

So we’ll head in that direction and wait and see, as is usually the case with a weather forecast. The good news is right now it’s GORGEOUS. The sun set around 2115 tonight, we flew the drone around the boat a few times to capture the lovely light, and the wind filled in on cue just before dinner from the S, so we’re beam-reaching at 8.8 knots as I type in 13 knots of apparent wind. The moon will rise soon, lighting up the clear night, and the sea is smooth. So while I’m planning for some upcoming gnar, we’re greatly enjoying the present.

A wonderful way to spend an anniversary I say.