"Meeting and hanging out with the people that we've been crewing with...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. I don't think 24 hours had gone by until we were signed up for RORC 2017. There's unfinished business here."
"59º North - Andy Schell, Mia Karlsson & Paul Exner...The real deal!"
"Ocean sailing is something you have to experience to understand. The Swan 48 is an offshore machine and Andy & Mia are fantastic hosts & teachers. Beyond the sailing, Cuba was an incredible destination. Thanks for the check-mark on the bucket list!"
"I can't remember the last time I had a 10 out of 10 experience! I am already looking forward to sailing with you again."
"Sailing on Isbjorn was a transcendent experience for me, something I'll never forget."
"Andy & Mia were an absolute pleasure to sail with! They put together an informative and fun trip on an absolutely beautiful boat."
"I first met Andy as part of his involvement with the Caribbean 1500 in October/November 2011. He also loved our classic style cutter, which also helped establish a rapport.
We maintained contact off and on, until the next year he asked me to join him as crew for the 2013 Annapolis to Newport race. It is through that experience that I can attest to his capabilities as a sailor, a captain and a teacher. In all pre-departure preparations, he kept foremost in his mind the safety and comfort of the crew. During the race Andy was a thoughtful teacher and captain, exhibiting patience, anticipating events and maintaining clarity in his instructions. Andy was always positive in debriefs, as well, which only serves to build confidence in those working with him.
Mia joined us this race, too, and it was wonderful getting to know her better – her knowledge, skills and sense of humor. The two of them make an invincible team! Thanks Andy, Thanks Mia!"
"The journey on Isbjorn impacted me deeply & widely, I'm so grateful. I am listening to all your podcasts and try to keep up with where you guys are!"
"What a treat to sail with the 59 North A-team! It was everything I hoped it would be…good sailing, good company and lots of practical sailing experience. Also, it was a real treat to spend time at the helm of the Swan 48! It has set the bar high in terms of what I’ll be expecting from my next boat! Wishing you guys what I’m sure will be continued success!"
"If you are thinking about reefing - reef! - If you are thinking about sailing with Andy & Mia, stop thinking and GO!!!! Andy & Mia are great sailors, leaders, teachers, cooks, as well as warm, intelligent, and accepting people. No matter how many blue water miles you have under your keel, you will be a better sailor after your trip on Isbjorn."
"How do you say thanks for providing a platform, experience, security, instruction etc. to do something that I’ve wanted to do for decades? The calm sailing seas of the first night, the stars, the bioluminescence, the more lively 2nd run, the sunrise, the boats, English Harbour, the new friends…Be safe out there and keep doing what you are doing. I’m betting that it will provide fruit well beyond your expectations."
"Andy & Mia were great at passing on their significant experience in an easy going way & were calm and professional in an emergency [Andy's appendicitis]. They served delicious food throughout the trip. Isbjorn is a fast, solid & well equipped boat ideally suited to this role. Overall it was a fantastic experience and the trip has given me the confidence to go sailing offshore with my family."
"I thought I would learn more spending time sailing on my own boat. I was so wrong!
I decided to book a trip when Andy announced the 2017 edition of the RORC600. The entire experience felt like an amazing vacation with familiar friends but nothing else was familiar: 4 hour shifts, sleeping against a lee board, larger winches and sails, beautiful boats everywhere around us, the Carribean sea, squalls, ... - the list of new and different goes on!
It's hard to express how much you learn when you are so deeply embedded with real salties. For me the realization came two weeks after I flew back when I looked up at the sails of my own boat and saw them like I never had before, knowing what was wrong and what I needed to trim. I will continue to work hard on better trims, inspired by the true seamanship I have seen from Andy, Mia and Paul aboard Isbjorn.
"An amazing and worthwhile experience. The varied weather provided opportunities to sail/navigate in some challenging conditions which is what I really wanted more experience doing. Andy & Mia are true sailors and excellent instructors. I learned a lot and would sign on more often if my budget allowed. I'm so glad I got a chance to join Isbjorn for a passage and truly hope to so again when I can."
"Words simply can't describe the experience I had aboard Isbjörn. The 600 was one of the most physically & mentally challenging things I have ever done, yet under the guidance of Andy and Mia and with the high-level coaching of Paul Exner, I can honestly say that I have come away from the trip with a total sense of accomplishment. My expectations were more than exceeded, and I feel that my overall grasp of sailing has achieved a new level!"
"The passage a wonderful opportunity given our current plan to start cruising in 3 years. It gave me a lot of information on how to setup my boat for a safe passage at sea; the safety equipment on the trip was the best money can buy. The passage gave me confidence. The biggest bonus, 'some say I’m crazy,' but I got my first taste at heavy weather sailing and it was a big confidence builder! I felt safe with the leadership on the boat and learned a lot… Whatever your reason for going on an adventure sail offshore, I highly recommend Andy to be the captain to take you!
"Sailing with Andy was a great experience and quite an education. I found Andy to be mature beyond his years and his experience and knowledge of sailing is impressive. Andy approaches sailing as an adventure that should be taken advantage of as an opportunity to learn more about yourself. His demeanor around the boat is anything but timid as he is quick to shimmy up the mast or out the whisker pole while underway whether its emergent or just for fun. He keeps a simple approach to systems and figures the fewer systems aboard the less you depend on and the less likely things will break. I would sail with Andy again in a heartbeat as I always look forward to an opportunity to learn from him.
"I learned so much from Andy, Mia and Paul and am grateful for their leadership and willingness to teach so many things. It took a number of weeks after getting home just to digest everything and realize how much the experience had changed me. I went into the trip expecting two main things: 1 - Learn lots about sailing and 2 - Enjoy the race. Both of those expectations were not just met, but exceeded. What I didn't expect was how the entire experience would be so inspiring.
Sailing with Andy, Mia and Paul Exner on Isbjorn was truly a life changing experience. Learning about sail trim, boat balance, spinnaker handling, navigation, headers and lifts...etc So many great takeways! The race we completed was one of the most challenging and physically gruelling trips i have ever been on. But...the greater the challenge, the greater the reward!
Andy, Mia and Paul are truly living their dreams. If that isn't inspiring enough, they are superb at humbly sharing their passion and helping us all reach our sailing goals as well. It was a real eye opener and reminds me that so much is possible with the right knowledge, attitude and perserverence.
If I had to sum up the entire experience in one word, that is an easy choice: Inspiration!"
Our crew comes from all walks of life, of all ages (median age: 49). We've raced HARD with a crew ranging in age from 32-71. We've sailed with Senators and salesman, bus drivers and computer programmers. Our crew are both men and women, and our inclusive philosophy makes no distinction between the two. Some have crossed oceans while others have never set foot on a sailboat.
A lot of our crew come back with us year after year. Some do so because they realize they can't, or don't want to, afford their own boat and the required maintenance, so they get their fix with us. Others are planning long-distance cruises on their own boats, so join us to get some ocean experience under their belts. Others still see it as a personal challenge, akin to climbing a mountain or running a race, and join us for the adventure of it.
That said, ALL of our crew share some of the same personality traits. To a person, our crew tend to be:
We honor everyone who sails with us, of course, but for the select few who sail with us year after year and start accruing more sea miles, we wanted to do something extra special. To honor your commitment to sailing aboard Isbjorn, we’ve created Crew Patches based on the old tradition of sailor tattoos. When you reach a milestone aboard Isbjorn with us, instead of getting tattooed (though that would be hardcore!), you’ll be issued a special Crew Patch to sew on a backpack or jacket or pin up in your home office as a reminder of your time with us and a symbol of what you’ve accomplished on the high seas. There is of course no limit to the number of patches you can collect!
Here’s the rundown. Note that the *starred ones are stuff we made up, based on the ideas of the tattoo tradition. The non-starred items are actual tattoos with a real tradition:
Anchor: Historically indicated sailing across the Atlantic. Complete an Atlantic crossing with us and get the anchor patch!
Nautical Star: Traditionally given so that a sailor could always find his or her way home. *We’ve adapted it to mean you’ve completed a celestial passage with us.
Sea Turtle: Showed that a sailor had crossed the equator. Join us on a trans-equatorial passage and get your turtle patch!
Dragon: Historically referred to a sailor that has served in Asia - if we ever make it to the Pacific, and you’re with us, it’s Dragon patches around!
Golden Dragon: Means a sailor has crossed the International Date Line.
Palm Tree: Denoted military service in the Mediterranean. Do a Med passage with us and get your palm tree patch!
Harpoon: Referred to a member of the fishing fleet - land a fish on Isbjorn and get your Harpoon patch!
Hula Girl: Reflected being stationed in Hawaii or sailing there. If we ever make it there, Hula patches for all!
“Hold Fast”: Traditionally tattooed on the knuckles as good luck for guys working in the rigging - go aloft on Isbjorn (at sea!) and get your Hold Fast patch!
Swallow: Traditionally received for each increment of 5,000 miles sailed - keep sailing with Isbjorn and you can rack up your Swallow patches! Swallow tattoos were also thought to be good luck in finding land and in returning to your home port.
Fully-rigged Ship: Represents traversal of Cape Horn. The biggest milestone of all - when we do this, we might just have to get the real thing!
*Spinnaker: Complete an offshore race with us and get your spinnaker patch!
Here's some inspiration from one of America's pioneering tattoo artists, Norman Collins, aka 'Sailor Jerry' (and yes, there is now a rum named after him). Once the patches are finished, we'll post the designs here too.