What to Expect Onboard

Ocean sailing is something you have to experience to understand.
— Greg Jorgensen // '16 Fajardo-Havana-Key West // ISBJORN


Quite simply, to share the wisdom of the high seas with those wise enough to seek it out. We have a very philosophical outlook on ocean sailing, and feel that it truly changes people. But you've got to be fully committed to make it enjoyable - and more importantly, safe - for yourself and everyone else onboard. 

Isbjorn and IceBear are in no way typical “charter boats” - it’s an ocean passage, not a luxury cruise - and the expeditions we run are closer in spirit to climbing Everest than they are to a typical Caribbean charter. There will always be a professional mate onboard in addition to the skipper, to safely sail the boat, but we expect crew, with guidance from us, to take care of themselves for the most part when it comes to eating, sleeping & living on the boat. 

There is nothing like lying flat on your back on the deck, alone except for the helmsman aft at the wheel, silence except for the lapping of the sea against the side of the ship. At that time you can be equal to Ulysses and brother to him.
— Errol Flynn


We are very good at making everyone feel 'at home' onboard. Which means, aside from our one hot meal per day ritual, you're on your own for food & snacks. If you're hungry, make a sandwich, and ask your watch partner if she wants one - take care of each other & don't expect the captain & crew to wait on you! 

You’ll be expected to do some or all of the following - don't know how to do it? We'll teach you! Also note that there will be equal opportunity for all crew members to get equal time on the boat helming, navigating, sail work, etc.

  • Wash dishes

  • Cleaning (heads included!)

  • Cooking

  • Standing Watch (alone or with a partner)

  • Recording in the logbook

  • Navigating

  • Going forward to reef / set the spinnaker

  • Hand-steering


We take safety very seriously offshore, and will spend a full day going over the safety routines and practices we put in place. We expect our crew to follow our safety rules and will not tolerate it they don't. Some of the basics include:

  • Wearing PFD's and being clipped onto the boat all the time, by default.

  • Following the 'standing orders,' or when to wake the skipper.

  • Paying attention belowdecks, where statistically you're more likely to get hurt!

  • Understanding where all thru-hulls and fire extinguishers are down below.

  • Etc. - You'll learn the rest onboard.


  • Smoking (anytime on the boat)

  • Drinking alcohol (during passage)

  • Drugs

  • Yelling

  • Complaining (!)


The key to a successful passage is teamwork. The hierarchy goes like this - take care of the boat first, then take care of each other. You'll be surprised how the mood can be lifted onboard by the simple offer of making your watchmate a snack on a wet & squally day!

Our goal is for your weaknesses to become strengths and for everyone to grow as sailors, no matter what your experience level (ourselves included!). When the skipper or mate are asleep, our lives and the safety of the boat depends on YOU! For us to get decent rest, we must be 100% certain you’ll wake us up at the slightest question. Lights on the horizon you’re not completely certain of, when to reef, which line to pull, etc. DO NOT do anything unless you’re sure it’s the right thing to do (read this account of a close-encounter with a ship that I'd like NOT to repeat in the future!). This doesn’t mean don’t do anything at all without asking – we don’t run that tight a ship – but we’ve got to keep safety first. Plus, we’d prefer not to break anyone or anything!

We strive to get everyone included in all aspects of running the boat, but safety is our #1 concern. Nothing happens onboard Isbjorn by accident - we'll closely monitor all crew's ability, health & fitness level and assign tasks accordingly. Sometimes you'll be asked to go to the foredeck, sometimes you'll be ask to handle lines in the cockpit. Please respect our decisions, but speak up if you feel left out or in over your head! 


You will never be punished for disobeying orders you feel are unsafe.


  • Each person will be assigned a single berth. This is yours. At sea, in certain extreme conditions, we may rotate where people sleep ('hot-bunking'), but your bunk remains yours for your stuff. No snacking or eating in your bunk under any circumstances!

  • Each person will get their own ‘stuff’ locker adjacent to your bunk (about 24x36 inches - think carry-on storage bin size on an airplane).

  • When you sleep, most all your stuff will be stored outside of your sea bag in the storage locker, as there is no storage for a seabag on the floor or in the vee-berth. Keep this in mind when packing.

  • There is shared space available for hanging your foulies and storing your boots in 'wet lockers'.

  • ‘Funk’ bucket – anybody’s stuff that’s lying around will go in here - you may be asked to do something embarrassing to get it back!


  • Mia and I eat super healthy food, made as much from natural, whole ingredients as possible. We've created some awesome boat meals during our sea time, and think you'll dig them! However, there is no way we can make individual meals for everyone - but we’ll honor any allergies of course.

  • One hot, communal meal per day in the late-afternoon (so we can be cleaned up with dishes before dark).

  • Breakfast, lunch & snacks are on your own – though it’s nice to ask if others are awake (teamwork, remember?!). Feel free to use the stove and galley anytime, and all food is up for grabs.

  • We’ll share the washing-up duties and make a galley rotation before we leave port.

  • Meals & snacks should be consumed in the galley, cockpit or saloon area. No eating anything, under any circumstances, in your bunk or at the nav station!


  • ‘Ups & Downs’ after dinnertime (trust me, this is fun!).

  • The person on-watch will be responsible to wake up the next watch 15-minutes before they’re on – ask if they want hot water made for tea of coffee!

  • ‘On-call’ watch is whoever is up next – so if the on-watch needs help, call them first, unless it's an 'all-hands' situation.

  • Positive vibes onboard – reinforce good actions with one another, and do not criticize wrong actions. We’ve all got stuff to learn.


  • We choose our routes based on seasons (ie not sailing in hurricane season where there are hurricanes!), but once we head offshore, we get what we get. Sometimes it’ll be wet and uncomfortable and even downright scary!

  • You may encounter heavy weather, uncomfortable and possibly frightening conditions, seasickness, sleep deprivation and constant motion. This is all part of the emotional roller coaster that is ocean sailing.

Without the bitter, baby, the sweet ain’t as sweet!
— Brian // Vanilla Sky


  • We’ll all clean the boat from stem to stern, above decks and below – that is, after a celebratory beverage or two!

  • Leave comments and constructive criticism on 59-north.com/testimonials.

  • Sign the guestbook!

  • Make sure we get you signed ‘off’ the boat with customs so you can leave the country!


  • This is not a sailing school, and we don't have any formal curriculum - however, there will be ample opportunity to learn as much as your heart desires if you participate in the running of the boat. Plus, we have a well-stocked reference library for your perusal.

  • You will always know who the skipper is prior to signing up for any individual passage.

  • Now that we've got two boats (!), Andy & Mia will typically be onboard the Swan 59 Ice Bear, and for spring 2019, our good friend Simon Borjeson will be skippering Isbjorn.

  • Sailing to a schedule offshore is always tough - we account for weather delays in our route plan and in 4 years have never missed a deadline.

  • The start and end dates for each passage are set for a reason, and they are firm!

  • The passage itinerary is subject to change due to circumstances beyond 59 North's control. These may include weather, sea conditions, customs clearance, national holidays and natural disasters. The safety of the vessel and crew is priority.

  • Isbjorn is a big boat – Ice Bear even bigger! But neither boat is that big! You won’t have much privacy onboard, and will be living in close quarters in challenging conditions. But you’ll have the time of your life!

  • There are no refunds if you decide to ‘jump ship’ during any stopover.

  • All expedition members will be signed on as crew, not passengers, and will be processed as crew in each country visited where customs is concerned.


  • If you exhibit socially unacceptable or offensive behavior or are uncooperative to the general detriment of the spirit of the passage, you will be repatriated to your home city at your own expense, from the first port where air transportation can be arranged. If you are repatriated for infringing on the rules of these expectations, you will not seek redress or sue for any real or imagined damages.


Once registered, you will receive specific instructions on how and what to pack. We have three packing lists - cold weather, warm weather, and transition weather. In short, less is more. We don't think anyone has ever wished they'd brought MORE gear!

To get an idea of what we're talking about, you can download the PDF packing lists below (but note, these get updated often, so email us if you have specific questions).

What's It Like Offshore?

Here's an excerpt from our logbook written during the 2016 Caribbean 1500 passage. It was a gnarly start to the trip, with big winds and seas and fast sailing, what you really hope a 'real' ocean passage will be like: 

"0545. I'm taking my first solo watch of the trip. Typically I don't stand watches - rather, our crew pair up, Mia takes a solo watch & I'm on-call, the crew doing three-on, six-off rotations. Tom, though, is majorly seasick and hasn't taken a watch since Day 1. For a while Ed & David and Mia & Bruce did 4-on, 4-off, but it's finally calmed down a bit so they're getting a needed break.

We predicted it'd be gnarly out here for the first few days, and the weather delivered. While the skies have been clear & the stars out at night, it's been WINDY. Yesterday it seemed to peak - when the sun came up you could finally see the size of the waves. They were big, and very beautiful. For the past two days it blew consistently in the mid -twenties, with long gusts touching 35 on our anemometer, which I have calibrated as low as it'll possibly go. And we were reaching, so it's showing only apparent wind. Isbjorn has been triple-reeled since entering the Gulf Stream. We've been back & forth with the jib on the pole and off the pole, on a port tack all the while. Mia, David, Ed & Bruce have gotten very good at setting & unsettling the pole, despite the big seas."

Read all of our passage logs by clicking here.