Ile Fourche 2016.jpg

What to Expect

What to Expect

How to Join a Passage


What to Expect

What to Expect

How to Join a Passage

Expectations & Roles Onboard.

Our Mission?

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 is in no way a typical “charter boat” - 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. 


We are very good at making everyone feel 'at home' on Isbjorn. 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


By signing on with us, you MUST agree to the following:

  1. To be attentive during the safety orientation and pay close attention to safety procedures explained, realizing that in an emergency all crew members must work together.
  2. Abide by safety rules during the passage, including the wearing of a safety harness whenever outside the cockpit, regardless of sea conditions.
  3. No booze at sea - no consumption of alcoholic beverages under any circumstances while we're offshore. (This won't apply in port or at anchor).
  4. Don't bring aboard or consume and drugs considered illegal in the U.S. or any country visited! This is a zero-tolerance policy!


  • 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 and 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! 

NEVER DO ANYTHING THAT YOU FEEL PUTS YOURSELF IN DANGER! 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!

Pumpkin muffins en route to the Caribbean!


  • 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!"

Squalls on the way to Tortola saw gusts touching 40.


  • 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. Most of the time it will be Andy Schell. Sometimes it will be Paul Exner. If there is a last-minute change for whatever reason (highly unlikely), a qualified replacement will be found.
  • In the unlikely event Isbjorn is unable to depart within seven days of the scheduled departure date of any expedition, 59 North, Ltd. shall refund all monies received to date for that specific leg or transfer them to a future trip.
  • 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 Ltd.'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 – but it’s not 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.

How & What to Pack.

Printable packing lists for both warm and cold weather passages are available by clicking the appropriate button below. We're constantly tweaking our packing lists based on experiences from each trip, so if you've sailed with us and have suggestions, please get in touch!

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.

Other Useful Things to Know.

Ile Fourche 2016.jpg



Our Most Frequently Asked Questions...

How can you be sure that I'll get along with the rest of the crew?

This is the most common question we get asked and the hardest one to answer. In short, of course we can't. But, what we do tends to attract a very specific type of person, and thus far, our crew have gotten along splendidly with one another and indeed with Andy & Mia. Dan Shea of Newfoundland, who raced with us in the 2016 RORC Caribbean 600, said it best: "Andy and Mia have built a natural filtering mechanism to find cool people, essentially. Anyone who sign's up for this is going to be really great to hang out with. It was just so much fun on so many levels."


Yes! Go to 59-north.com/sailingcrew to get an idea of who sails with us and to read some personal testimonials from our crew past and present.

How much experience is required to sign on for a passage?

The short answer? NONE! We have had several crew who have never even set foot on a sailboat before, but they have the dream, and that’s what’s important. Our crew, John M., always dreamed of seeing the ‘stars down to the horizon,’ yet he’d never been sailing. He changed that with us, and has since been as far as South Africa to complete a coastal nav. course and sails regularly on Lake Ontario in his free time. You’ll of course understand more of what’s going on the more experience you have, but it’s not in fact required.

What type of person makes for good crew offshore?

Quite simply, the folks who get along with others in confined spaces will do best onboard. There is no privacy on the boat except for in the head (and trust me, you don’t want to be there long!). Sailing skills are far down the list of things we look for. More importantly, potential crew should be open-minded, willing to work as a team, content with limited resources, know their limits (and when to wake the captain) and happy living simply.

What’s the best way to prepare myself for going offshore?

Everybody who’s not been offshore, even the experienced coastal or inshore sailors, underestimates the physical toll just living on the boat at sea takes. Everybody. The boat is constantly in motion, even on the nice days. Things like brushing teeth, going to the bathroom, just putting on socks take time and physical effort. To make it more difficult, you’ll be sleep-deprived during most of it, especially before you fully adjust to the rhythm. Offshore sailing is closer to living like an astronaut than coastal sailing where you get to stop and anchor for the night! Bottom line, the fitter you are to begin with, the easier time you’ll have at sea. Eat right and exercise!

What amenities are there aboard Isbjorn?

Not too many! We've been constantly upgrading the boat, so she's getting better and better, but it's still a very simple offshore sailing platform. We recently added hot water, but the only shower is in the cockpit, so it's bikini and board shorts for showering time (unless your really adventurous...or Finnish). Beds are proper sea bunks, and we provide sheets, quick-dry 'pack towels' and pillows. You'll need a sleeping bag on colder trips. 

How do couples fit in with the crew?

We occasionally get a couple join us who have plans of their own to sail over the horizon together. This sometimes provides a conundrum - on one hand, we like to split couples up on the watch schedule so they can get independent experience sailing the boat. Also, if you sail double-handed in the future, you won’t be on watch together then either, so might as well get used to it! Other times we do pair couples together, depending on their goals. 

Is it crowded with six crew on a 48' boat?

No. In fact, we have bunks for 8 people (and even race offshore with 10!), but we deliberately keep crew numbers down. The beauty of Isbjorn is that she was purpose designed and built as an ocean racer - meaning, safe, single sea berths for 8. Mia and I sleep in the aft quarter berths, while the crew is divided among the forepeak berths and the pilot bunks in the salon. The two settee berths are left empty so that the forepeak crew may sleep there when going to windward (and sleeping forward is untenable!).

What are the duties aboard?

Check out our 'Expectations & Roles' on the What to Expect page.

How long are the watches?

Our watch schedule is flexible and based on the experience and comfort level of the crew. Normally, crew are paired off in groups of two and do four hours on, eight off. Mia does a single-handed watch in settled conditions, while Andy ‘floats’ - meaning he doesn’t take any formal watch, but rather helps out when needed on all watches and makes sure to spend time sailing with all the crew. On an ocean race, where all crew is given specific roles, a ‘watch captain’ would ultimately be in charge of decisions on their watch. However, given the range of experience of the crew, we do not assign watch captains - rather, if there is discussion among the crew as to what to do, then the captain is woken up to settle the debate! 

What are my watch duties?

Watch Standing Checklist

Watchkeeper Duties

Scan horizon 360º AT LEAST every 10 minutes for traffic
Check AIS periodically for traffic
Listening watch on VHF ch. 16
Keep the sails trimmed efficiently & the boat on course within 10º 

STANDING ORDERS (When to wake the skipper)

ANYTIME there is DOUBT for ANY reason!
‘CBDR’: Traffic on collision course (‘Constant Bearing, Decreasing Range’)
Wind-shift that requires more than 10º course change
Feel the need to reef (you may shake a reef without waking the skipper)


Wake ‘on-deck’ watch at least 15 minutes prior & put kettle on
‘Turnover’: wind & weather conditions, course adjustments, traffic seen, etc. 
Check the bilge, pump if necessary w/ manual pump & COUNT STROKES
Complete log book, including engine hours & bilge pump strokes

Will I be able to communicate with friends or family during the expedition?

Yes! We partner with YB Tracking to offer text and email services via the Iridium satellite network, even when offshore! Crew download the ‘YB Connect’ app prior to joining the boat, setup an account (at their expense - normal text-based messages cost 1 YB ‘credit’ per 50 characters). Once aboard, they can Bluetooth connect to our built-in YB Tracker to send and receive messages.

What clothes and gear should I bring?

Be sure to check our Packing Lists on the What to Expect page.

How do we make travel plans given the uncertain nature of ocean sailing?

Our passages are scheduled based on an average speed of 5.5 knots VMG (that’s ‘velocity made good.’). This is a very conservative estimate for Isbjorn - after 9,000 miles of sailing in our first year, we’re actually averaging over 6.5 knots VMG. The conservative estimate, however, ensures that we’ll get to our destination with time to spare before the ‘last day’ of the trip. We still encourage crew not to book return air travel until we know for sure when we’re departing (some passages are easier to predict weather-wise than others, in the Trades in the Caribbean for example). Normally, if you book ahead, booking a ticket out on the final scheduled day of the passage will ensure you make your flight. Crew normally book a few days later and spend some time ashore before they depart.

What is the best way to get travel and trip cancellation insurance?

That said, anything can - and does - happen offshore. We recommend CSA Travel Protection for travel insurance, just in case. They’re on csatravelprotection.com or 1-800-348-9505.

Where can I get further information on ocean sailing, in the style that Andy & Mia promote?

Go and check out our continually updated Books page!


The Fine Print

Terms & Conditions

How to Book

The Fine Print

Terms & Conditions

How to Book

The Fine Print.

Note: the following items will show up at the bottom of the registration form, and you'll have to agree to it before proceeding to the payment screen to lock-in your passage registration. Read it here, FYI.


By checking 'agree' below, you agree that you have read and understand the following cancellation policy. Once your application has been approved, your $250 application fee is non-refundable. If your application is denied (extremely rare), your fee will be returned immediately. If you give written notice of your cancellation 60 days before departure, you will receive a refund equal to half of the total trip cost, less the non-refundable application fee. If 59 North, Ltd. is able to re-book your berth, you will receive a full refund less your $250 application fee. You understand that within 60 days of departure, no refund or credit can be made for any reason including illness. You understand that there are no exceptions to this policy. You understand the importance of trip cancellation insurance, which is your own responsibility to obtain. By checking 'agree' below you agree to all of the above.


By checking the box below, you agree to make payments on or before dates specified on this website and email receipts. You also agree to a $250 late payment fee for any payments received seven days or more past the payment due date.


Acknowledgment of this form is required for each person joining a passage with 59 North, Ltd. Please read carefully before agreeing below. By checking 'agree' below this Agreement, each person participating in a sailing passage waives all claims against Andy Schell d/b/a 59 North, Ltd., and any reservation/booking agent for injury, accident, illness or death during or by reason of their joining a passage on the sailing vessel Sojourner or Isbjorn. 

"I ACKNOWLEDGE that I am aware that during the passage in which I will be participating, certain risks and dangers may arise, including but not limited to, the hazards of traveling on the open sea, falling overboard, storms, high winds, collision of vessels, shipwreck, travel ashore in remote terrain, the forces of nature, and accident or illness in remote regions without means of rapid evacuation or medical facilities. I am also aware and clearly understand that Andy Schell and Maria Karlsson d/b/a 59 North, Ltd. will have no liability regarding provision of medical care or the adequacy of any care that may be rendered. I have read the Expectations supplied to me by 59 North, Ltd., and agree to abide by these rules on board or ashore, for the duration of the expedition. I understand that although 59 North, Ltd. may make suggestions as to air carriers and travel agents, they assume no liability for injury, damage, delay, irregularity or loss of baggage relating to airline travel. In consideration of the Agreement with 59 North, Ltd. to participate in this expedition, I hereby agree that I will assume all risk of this trip and I will not make any claims against 59 North, Ltd. or sue for bodily injury, emotional trauma, death and/or property damage resulting from negligence or unseaworthiness of the vessel, or other acts, however caused, as a result of my participation in this expedition. I, therefore, release, indemnify and discharge 59 North, Ltd. and its booking agents and employees from all claims, actions and demands that I may have for bodily injury, death or property damage arising from my participation in the expedition." 

This RELEASE OF LIABILITY, AGREEMENT TO HOLD HARMLESS AND INDEMNIFY, AND ASSUMPTION OF RISK Agreement is entered into on behalf of all members of my family, including any minors accompanying me. If any person who accompanies me on this trip as part of my family makes claim, or if a claim is made on their behalf, my estate or I will indemnify and hold harmless 59 North, Ltd. from any loss, including reasonable attorney's fees incurred in the defense of such claim. This Agreement is binding upon my heirs, legal representative and assigns. If any portion of this Agreement is unenforceable, the remaining portions shall remain in full force and effect. All applicants are subject to acceptance by 59 North, Ltd. This Agreement shall be deemed to have been entered into at Lancaster, Pennsylvania and shall be construed and interpreted according to the laws of the State of Pennsylvania. In the unlikely event a legal dispute should arise, I agree the dispute shall exclusively be brought before the appropriate court in Lancaster County, in the State of Pennsylvania. I have carefully read this and understand its terms. I execute it voluntarily and with full knowledge of its significance. Check the box below to agree and continue.