Thursday, 15 August, 2013
Pos: 45 22.865’N x 082 11.816’W
Wx: SW F 4
Pride of Baltimore II sailing under four lowers at 8 knots.
Pride of Baltimore II has had one transit this year that was literally for the birds. With a slightly compressed timeline, and fierce northerly on Lake Michigan, and a day waiting at anchor for civilized conditions, it was starting to look like this passage from Chicago to Owen Sound was going to be for the Dinosaurs – strictly run on fossil fuel. Weighing Anchor in Muskegon Lake at 0400 Wednesday, we slogged along in the leftover churn from nearly 36 hours of oscillating north quadrant winds and were soon on a time line to make up the day lost at anchor, but just. And without any sailing.
Few things are worse for crew morale than a motoring passage. Everyone understands that it’s bound to happen eventually, but that doesn’t ease the harsh reality of having to move a sweet sailing ship from port to port without the inspiring magic of sail. August is a particularly dodgy month of that here in the Lakes, where summer doldrums seem to stretch on numbingly, interrupted only by eruptions of near gale. What made this passage all the more stinging was that by late afternoon Wednesday, as Pride II passed by the towering spectacle of Sleeping Bear Dunes, there was wind. Just not enough.
We could have sailed, by thunder, we could have SAILED! But in ten knots of quartering breeze it’s a tall order to ask any ship, even one as nimble as Pride II, to make much more than six knots. And less than half-way to Owen Sound, we needed seven and better to stay on schedule. We set what we could and motor-sailed – a poor substitute – hoping to get ahead of the curve and sail in the morning.
The plan worked, to a point. Out into Lake Huron at 1100, we set all plain sail, plus the T’gallant, and made a go of it. Five knots, four and a half – how long could we keep up the pleasant snail’s pace and still make our 0800 arrival? Three hours, it turned out. At 1400, the wind took a siesta and we called it quits, took in almost everything and got a jump on our busy arrival by harbor furling the tops’ls.
Then, at sunset, the breeze came back, 14 knots of it, touching 15, 16 even. This was sailing wind. We still had the main and heads’ls set, then added the fores’l surge over eight. We were beating the curve under sail! As I write this, we still are, but barely. The future promises motoring, incinerating dinosaurs, loud and insistent noise. But for now it’s just creaks and groans in the rig, water gurgling past the planking, and quiet contentment throughout the population of the ship.
Captain Jamie Trost and the (finally) sailing crew of Pride of Baltimore II