In his book After 50,000 Miles, renowned cruiser Hal Roth wrote about the changes he made to Whisper, his Spencer 35, after he and his wife, Margaret, had crossed oceans on her many times over. It’s an illuminating look at how an old-school sailor who only learned the sport in his 40s never rested on his laurels, and never accepted that his “experience” alone made him a better sailor, but constantly evolved to meet the increasingly difficult challenges he set for himself.
I borrowed the title of that book for this essay, adapting it to the two years my wife, Mia, and I have owned and sailed Isbjorn, our 1972 Swan 48 on which we run off shore passages with paying crew.
Mia and I have sailed more during this period of time than we did in the previous 10 years—from Connecticut, where we bought to the boat, to the Chesapeake, south as far as Guadaloupe, west to Havana, north to Newfoundland, back again to our home port in Annapolis, then across the Atlantic this summer: over 15,000 miles of ocean sailing in all. We’ve set a relentless pace that’s required superhuman hard work and emotional fortitude, not to mention the help of friends and family, in spades.
Some of the miles were easy, daydream sailing downwind in the Trades, like our 1,100-mile run from Puerto Rico to Havana last year. Others were uncomfortably difficult, like the 150-mile beat from Key West to Ft. Lauderdale, when easterly winds of 30-plus k