ICEBEAR Offshore // "Iceberg, right ahead!"

An unexpected highlight of the passage to St. John’s.

As I write, we’re on the home stretch, steaming up the east coast of Newfoundland towards St. John’s. We’ve got a big iceberg about a mile ahead, and the crew has altered course to go and have a better look. It’s the fifth berg we’ve sighted since rounding Cape Race in the SE.

The other bonus of that low moving off to the north was that we knew the air getting pulled in from the west would be dry, and the ‘iceberg coast’ fog-free. Had we continued direct to St. John’s last week, the easterly wind that brought all that rain in Hare Bay would have also brought in the fog on the home stretch up the coast, and with the number of icebergs still in the teens in each square degree going north, that wasn’t worth the risk.

A flock of guillomots on an iceberg fly-by.

Seeing the ice in clear skies was a hell of a reward for the heavy weather yesterday. Thus far we’ve stopped to admire two big bergs from close range, bringing in ICEBEAR under power (the wind, after all that fuss, shut down completely around 1200 noon as we rounded Cape Race) to within a hundred yards or so. I put the drone up to get a bird’s eye view, and the crew stopped to admire the beauty of nature’s most striking sculpture. Both bergs we stopped for had at some point in their decay rolled, for the tops of them were pure white and smooth as marble, highlighted in spots by deep turquoise cracks where they’d broken apart and re-frozen during their lifespan.

Icebergs! Music by St. Paul de Vence.

The icebergs down this way are brought south on the cold Labrador current from way up north in Greenland, glacial ice that calves into the sea and makes it’s way to the lower latitudes. The current is noticeable now on the other side of Cape Race - the water temp is down to 4º C now, and the air, despite the calm, still has a bite in it.

This is the third time we’ve been up this way in our sailing travels, but never this early in the season, and it’s WAY colder than I remember. We’ve never had the opportunity to see icebergs in the past, the limit being much farther north when we were by here on ARCTURUS in August of 2011, and then again on ISBJORN in July of 2016. So this is an unanticipated treat for us and the crew, and an unexpected navigational challenge that thus far we’ve passed (thanks mostly to our reading of the weather).

The way the ocean swell interacted with this berg was mesmerizing!

Liz admiring the day’s first berg.

We’re 37 miles out from St. John’s now, and I’m sure this will be the last post I write about this passage. Next week begins the long slog back to the Chesapeake. I’ll miss Mia - she’s flying back to Sweden on July 2 to get some time with family and friends. It’s been a long season and I originally had encouraged here to leave early, but am now regretting it, realizing now that the time has almost come, how much fun we have sailing and working together.

August Sandberg will be ISBJORN’s new full-time skipper. He’s sailing ICEBEAR back to Annapolis with me on the final two legs of the 2019 summer season.

August Sandberg, ISBJORN’s new full-time skipper, will fly over from Norway to join me as mate for the final two legs of this summer’s northern season, and my dad is flying up from PA to join for the leg down to Lunenburg. I’m hoping the ice will still be here for them to see on the way south. The goal is to try and call at French St. Pierre like we did on ISBJORN in 2016, then continue direct to Lunenburg.

With that, I’ll sign off on this most exceptional leg north to St. John’s, and spend the rest of the motorboat ride up the coast editing the photos and videos of the past few days.

Until next time, HOLD FAST!