Why 59º 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, and the skippers & mates we hand pick to work with, 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 the 59º North team possesses, we can offer an experience that is far greater than the sum of it's parts...

The single most important thing you can do, by far and bar none, to become a safe and happy offshore cruiser is to go to sea as crew with an experienced skipper on a good boat. No amount of inshore sailing or reading replaces this vital step on the road to becoming a competent offshore sailor.
— John Harries // morganscloud.com
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Isbjorn & Ice Bear Are Extremely Well Outfitted

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.

Exceptional Leadership

This is the intangible part. I can't possibly explain this here in writing, but for whatever reason, our skippers & mates have a knack for rising to the occasion as leaders 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.

Teaching Ability

We don't teach to a specific curriculum, but you will learn as much as you care to soak up on passage with us. We 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! 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. Our skippers & mates 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 we’re 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 we mean by this, check out this podcast Andy did with USCG rescue swimmer Mario Vittone.

Small Crew 

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 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!

You go, boy, you go, no matter what they say, you go. Understand?
— Sailmaker, to a young Sterling Hayden
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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...

But give me this glorious ocean life, this salt-sea life, this briny, foamy life, when the sea neighs and snorts and you breathe the very breathe that the great whales respire. Let me roll around the globe, let me rock upon the sea, let me race and pant out my life with an eternal breeze astern and an endless sea before me.
— Richard Dana, 'Two Years Before the Mast'

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.

There’s no satisfaction at all in staying at home...You’re doing a hard thing. But you’ll have something to be proud of when you’ve done it. Otherwise, if you just do the easy things, what’s to be proud of? Go for the tough things. That’s how you get satisfaction in life. And what fun it is, to go out in life and to take something on.
— Sir Robin Knox-Johnston
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Midnight. Thoughts and stars. Stars and thoughts. The heavens ablaze with a billion distant worlds. The mind ablaze, too, in its own fashion. Something’s wrong - with this whirl of emotion and struggle. What in the hell for? The point - what is it? Why take life so seriously, for Jesus Christ’s sake? Why not, instead, do as the majority do? Barge along down the road of least resistance, asking no questions, dreaming no dreams save those you hold within grasp?

Six feet ahead of me the helmsman stands, transfixed by a compass rose. I hunch down into the sheepskin coat, my cloth-visored cap pulled low; its flaps encase my ears to their lobes. Stars glow everywhere - icecold sparks held by infinity.

Midnight. Tomorrow becomes today...
— Sterling Hayden

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?

Voyaging belongs to seaman, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in...”
— Sterling Hayden

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...

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