I’m writing from the little ‘stuga’ in Åland, sat in a grey living room chair with my feet propped up on the coffee table and the laptop, well, in my lap. The cabin belongs to Mia’s best friend Johanna’s dad, and is situated on a lovely little peninsula amongst pine trees and moss-covered forest, overlooking a small inlet which eventually, after myriad twists and turns, leads out to sea and into the Baltic.
We’ve got a lot of history here. Åland was the first place I visited outside of Sweden, when I first came to Sweden in 2007. We celebrated New Year’s Eve then, my sister Kaitie in tow, watching homemade fireworks in the cold winter night, while far too many big men were crowded into a wood-fired hot tub. We returned to the cabin by boat in 2013, sailing ARCTURUS here after having spent the summer circumnavigating Åland. We were able, barely, to sneak in across a shallow spot and into the little cover and anchored right in front of the very cabin I’m sitting in now. In fact, from this very seat one of those mornings with ARCTURUS here, I watched the wind shift as I drank my morning coffee, ARCTURUS swinging around with it and then stopping, suddenly, as she went firmly aground in the shallows off the swimming dock. But that’s another story.
I’m writing because I never finished the story from the end of our summer season. In fact I kind of stopped writing altogether when Mia left St. John’s, flying home to Sweden. It had been a long year, and I just didn’t have it in me.
Mia flew home on July 2, having met the crew for the return leg to Lunenburg. My dad had flown up from Pennsylvania to join us for a sail in another part of the world he’d never been to, in the hopes he’d get to see an iceberg or two (he did). August Sandberg, ISBJORN’s new full-time skipper, flew over from Norway to take Mia’s place as mate on ICEBEAR, get to know ‘the 59 North Experience,’ and spend some time training up with me.
The passage to Lunenburg was uneventful in the best way, and yet still exciting. We departed St. John’s in the fog and cold, wearing full sets of long underwear and ski hats and gloves to keep warm, which was tough given that it was a beat the minute we left the harbor, the wind coming up from the south. Within the first 8 hours it became abundantly clear that we wouldn’t get around Cape Race before dark, and with the stiff wind, fog, new crew and iceberg threat, we bailed out and went to anchor near a small village on the east coast of the Avalon peninsula, before continuing on towards St. Pierre the next day, our first planned stop.
From that tiny French outpost, which we’d visited now for the 3rd time, we sailed direct for Lunenburg, still beating most of the way, but had a chance to fly-by Sable Island in clear, calm weather, just as we had done in 2016 on ISBJORN, getting a close-up view of the wild horses ashore and the thousands of seals that line the beach. A handful of oil rigs stood offshore.