Why 59 North?
Before we dive into the philosophical stuff, I'll take a minute to convince you why you should sail with us specifically - that is, 59 North Sailing. There are lots of options out there, from volunteering on someone else's boat, to online crew listings to mile-building programs with different sailing schools.
Humility aside, Mia & I are very good at leading offshore sailing passages, and (we've been told), we're pretty fun to hang out with! Through some of the 'intangibles' that Mia & I have, we can offer an experience that is far greater than the sum of it's parts...
You won't find finer boats - a Swan 48 and Swan 59 - suited for the express purpose of ocean sailing, in a simple yet comfortable manner. No frills (we won't be serving you ice cream), but EVERYTHING you need for safe, fast and fun offshore sailing, at the highest standards of safety and performance. Click here to see what kind of gear we use and why.
This is the intangible part. I can't possibly explain this here in writing, but for whatever reason, I have a knack for rising to the occasion as a leader and creating a fun, supportive environment onboard. Having led the Caribbean 1500 cruising rally for 5 years, I can tell you that the crews who had the most enjoyable passages were the ones with the best leadership.
We don't teach to a specific curriculum, but you will learn as much as you care to soak up on passage with us. I LOVE to talk about weather analysis, and will show you the tools and products we use to do it. You'll get hands-on work with engine & winch maintenance, for example, and learn how to change headsails on the foredeck. Every opportunity to make a sail change, adjust the course, plan a landfall, etc. is an opportunity to learn, and we teach in such a way stuff sticks! I'm trained in teaching English as a Foreign Language, where you teach by elicitation - meaning, you discuss topics in such a way that the students get realize the answer before you tell them. This works great in offshore sailing. By specifically NOT using a curriculum, each passage is different, and you never feel like you're back in school, but rather part of a team that's working towards a goal.
Smart & Conservative
Offshore sailing still makes us nervous, believe it or not. Mia & I have enormous respect for nature and the sea specifically, and we're always making decisions to work with the ocean, not against her.
This paragraph aside (haha), I understand that while we've got a lot of miles under the keel, we've ALWAYS got something to learn. To that end I'm constantly reading books on seamanship & leadership, and look to other industries (like mountaineering, merchant shipping and flying) to find ideas we can adapt to the kind of offshore sailing we do, to make it safer and more fun. To more clearly illustrate what I mean by this, check out this podcast I did with USCG rescue swimmer Mario Vittone.
We take a maximum of 4 paying crew on Isbjorn, and 6 paying crew on Ice Bear each leg (plus the occasional apprentice or photographer), plus Mia & Andy as captain & mate. With a smaller crew, we can more easily work to meet each person's specific needs, whether it be more time at the helm, learning celestial navigation or practicing sail trim.
Okay, now on to the spiritual/philosophical stuff!
The Indescribable Joys of Ocean Sailing
If you've made it to our site, you probably don't need an answer to the 'why?' question. It's a question without a real answer anyway. We go offshore because the ocean is there, we do it for the personal challenge and to fulfill a need for discovery. But in case you want some more inspiration, here's my longer, philosophical pitch, with a few of my favorite quotes sprinkled in to inspire you...
Some people simply 'get it,' and no explanation of why you should venture offshore is needed. 'Won't I get bored?' some people ask. Those who 'get it,' know that answer is 'no.' There is no such thing as boredom on a long ocean voyage. The minutes and hours may drift by slowly, but the days go by in a flash.
We go to sea to learn about ocean sailing, but we come back having learned more about ourselves than any technical aspect of sailing a boat. The sailing part is easy. But do we have it in us to withstand the wind, seas and spray at the helm on a dark, cold night offshore? Do we have it in us to withstand the feeling of exposure one gets at sea, of being so small and vulnerable, the boat wrapped around you like a tortoise shell. Do you ask yourself these questions of yourself? Can we withstand the brutal seasickness that befalls everyone who goes to sea, sooner or later?
So, it's hard to put your finger on it, right? But if you've got the opportunity, whether with us aboard Isbjorn or with someone else, GO! You won't regret it, and it might even change your life...