Sailing 10 knots toward Toronto

0930 hours Wednesday June 30, 2010

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II is docked at Toronto’s people friendly waterfront park and residential harbor side.

PRIDE helped form a mini-tall ship parade into Toronto Harbor yesterday afternoon with EUROPA and ROSEWAY. I am told there was good imagery captured by the news media helicopter that made two passes over the small fleet. The wind was fresh at near 20 knots and PRIDE’s crew put their hearts into sail handling under full sail and her sometimes 10 knots of speed.

For PRIDE’s crew the work associated with full-sail sailing in 20 knots of wind was significant in that this was the first time they had sailed her in such conditions with full-sail set. For this captain, the work was keeping track of when the helicopter was going to be passing by so as to minimize the time PRIDE would be in the middle of a turning maneuver with the associated reality that such a maneuver puts the sails in all kinds of weird orientations. When not turning, PRIDE’s sails are all harmoniously trimmed and full of wind pulling her along at best speed for the angle of wind. Sometimes that means sails trimmed tight, flat and close for sailing as close to the wind as possible. Sometimes that is a broad reach with the wind coming over the after (stern) quarters and filling the properly trimmed “full looking” sails, resulting in some of the fastest boat speeds available for the wind strength. Broad reach sailing in 20 knots means near maximum speed for PRIDE of around 10 knots. Staying close to other vessels that are moving at lesser speeds presents the trick of maintaining parade position for the short time frame of the “live shot”.

Setting up the parade by falling into line behind EUROPA, who was in an up-wind location from us, required sailing PRIDE first upwind to get behind her, then turning downwind to reach along behind her in parade position. To do this my focus was on avoiding collisions, maneuvering outside of shoal water waters, keeping an eye on spectator traffic, keeping an eye on deck maneuvers and calling out sail trim orders, as well as keeping track of the helicopter, all while figuring out an expeditious route to sail to get into parade position and hopefully provide an attractive and dynamic image in harmony with the other vessels for the camera to capture for the mid-afternoon live TV coverage.

From the crews’ perspective this was some of the best sailing they had seen so far this year. Especially as they were seeing for themselves that they knew more about what they were doing and could anticipate better than ever what was needed and when. From my perspective I feel we should have provided some good imagery for the camera. But a “live” showing does not offer the opportunity to pick and chose the best imagery. Like a theatrical stage show…we either got it right at the right time…or we got it right at the wrong time.

We followed up this sailing dance and parade by sailing into Toronto Harbor right up to within 100 feet of our assigned dock. Soon after docking Canadian Customs came aboard and within half an hour we were cleared and the crew proceeded with tidying up the ship in preparation of a full maintenance day come Wednesday. As I write there is a scramble to sand the bulwark rail cap and get it varnished today. Tomorrow we are open to the public, so on-deck cosmetic maintenance must come to a stop.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Approaching Toronto ~ The first ASTA Tall Ships Port 2010

1000 hours Tuesday June 28, 2010

PRIDE approaches the 1st rendezvous of the American Sail Training Association (ASTA) 2010 Great Lakes United Tall Ships Challenge (GLUTSC) fleet at Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

We are seeing other traditional sailing vessels now as we get ever closer to Toronto. EUROPA, a Dutch Barque Rigged square sail vessel, is arriving from cruises this last winter in the Antarctic. ROALD AMUNDSEN, a German Brig Rigged square sail vessel is arriving from Europe. ROSEWAY, a two mast schooner of the American Cod Fishing style and UNICORN, an all female leadership training program in a square topsail schooner of European origins, along with PRIDE, are arriving from the American East Coast. The jostling begins to organize ourselves for the parade of sail into Toronto Harbor later this afternoon.

PRIDE is more recently arriving from a three vessel tall ship Festival of Sail hosted in Oswego, New York over this last weekend. LYNX, UNICORN and PRIDE were the scene in Oswego’s first tall ship focused festival. The Oswegan hospitality was warm, friendly, supportive and the general public was wonderfully considerate and polite during their time aboard. Oswego has an important strategic maritime history considering its port is the beginning of a canal system that links Lake Ontario to New York Harbor via the Hudson River and Lake Champlain.

The transit from Oswego across the full length of Lake Ontario westward toward Toronto starting yesterday under sail was uneventful insofar as the wind was moderate to light till early this morning. With light winds, followed by calm, followed by a fresh westerly wind flow, PRIDE has been motoring all night into the wind in order to help form a parade of sail into Toronto for a news media helicopter flight scheduled for this afternoon. The lack of sailing overnight will be made up for a little bit by resetting sail and milling around outside of the harbor entrance. We are now less than 10 miles from the entrance and we have more than 4 hours to wait for the start of the parade. Soon we too will have sail up.

Early arrival at The Thousand Islands

0800 hours Wednesday June 23, 2010

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II passed through The Thousand Islands region of the upper St. Lawrence River this morning. A faster than anticipated transit of the Seaway System starting from Montreal yesterday morning brought PRIDE into the 1000 Islands much sooner than I can ever recall being able to do in the 12 trips up the St Lawrence River that I have made thus far in schooners since 1981. The speed of the transit up river from Montreal appears to me to be due to reduced current flow downstream after a very mild winter with reduced snow fall on the watershed that supplies the Great Lakes, and reduced commercial shipping traffic as a result of the downturn in the economy. This is the first time ever there has been no waiting line delay to pass through a lock. As a result, instead of passing through 1000 Islands in the afternoon of the day after entering the Seaway System we are passing through early in the morning. Such timing coming up the river and a change for the better in the overnight rainy weather created a beautiful early morning sun-breaking-through-cloud-cover vista. Cameras broke out before breakfast to record the morning beauty.

Behind PRIDE the ROALD AMUNDSEN pulled off to the side of the river late yesterday and anchored after I spoke with her on the radio welcoming them to North America. They are quite early for the first full fleet rendezvous in Toronto scheduled for June 30. I asked if they had other interim obligations. After learning that they were not pressed for time to get somewhere before getting to Toronto, I described some good anchorages that could be used at night that were also good swimming locations due to not having a lot of current.

EUROPA, LYNX and ROSEWAY arrived Montreal yesterday morning and remained overnight. During communications with LYNX yesterday afternoon I learned they intended to get started up river around 4 am today with hopes of catching up with us for a sail together across Lake Ontario to Oswego on Thursday.

That sail will likely prove interesting. There is a second low with an associated trough preceding another cold front coming through late Wednesday night that is likely to bring heavy thunder storms along with winds between 15 and 25 knots flowing first from the south and veering through southwest on its way to west and northwest by the middle of the day Thursday. Winds from the south to southwest would not provide PRIDE an easy sail. So I am hoping for the wind to change early Thursday to the west to provide PRIDE an “easy” reach to Oswego. But even if that comes to pass and we manage not to have a significant experience with a strong thunderstorm, sailing in Lake Ontario after it has been kicked up by strong winds from the southwest may prove to be not much fun. Fresh water is lighter than salt water hence when the wind blows the wave size in fresh water can be quite a bit larger than for saltwater. According to Canada the forecast for wave size for Lake Ontario on Thursday could go to 2 meters or about 7 feet and the distance between crests could be very close making a situation where PRIDE can feel like it is a battering ram losing the battle.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Negotiating the Locks

1130 hours Tuesday June 22, 2010

PRIDE started to “climb” the step-ladder of locks in the St. Lawrence Seaway System between Montreal and Lake Ontario this morning.

The process of “entering” the Seaway is rather procedural. It requires a pre-inspection before being permitted into the system. For new vessels to the system this is readily obvious to be sure the vessel will fit and no damage to the lock or the vessel will occur. For returning vessels the pre-inspection is required upon the first arrival to the system any given year, but not again until the next year, no matter how many times the system is transited. Arranging the pre-inspection requires several phone calls and radio conversations to verify information and to coordinate the logistics of moving the vessel for both the inspection and the beginning of the transit. As always, until PRIDE is actually in the Seaway system she must have a Montreal Harbor pilot for any movement. This time we required two pilots because the Seaway was unable to accommodate the inspection during the first locking procedure. So a pilot was needed to move us this morning to a nearby mooring location to the first lock. Then after the inspection was completed…took about half an hour…another pilot was required to make the last 1000 foot shift from outside of lock number one to inside lock number one. This second pilot for the last 1,000 foot move will add expense to entering the first lock that was not incurred two years ago when the Seaway was able to accommodate the inspection during the first locking…back then only one pilot was required to go from anchorage to inside lock number one.

Meanwhile just ahead of PRIDE in the Seaway system is ROALD AMUNDSEN, the German sail training vessel that is going to participate in the Great Lakes Tall Ship Challenge (GLTSC) organized by the American Sail Training Association (ASTA) in partnership with various Great Lake port cities hosting the tall ships for maritime festivals. Behind us, not yet in the Seaway system is LYNX (American West Coast), EUROPA (Dutch) and ROSEWAY (American Northeast Coast). Of this group of tall ships PRIDE and LYNX are the only vessels visiting Oswego, scheduled to arrive there Thursday.

Looking ahead to the weather forecast…it looks like rain with threat of thunderstorms starting tonight and going through Wednesday and Thursday before clearing again with south to southwest winds Wednesday and early Thursday, shifting to west winds later on Thursday. More headwinds to motor against…not what I was hoping for…but nothing to be surprised by.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Passing Trios-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II just exchanged pilots at Trios-Rivieres (Three Rivers), Quebec, Canada, midway between Quebec City and Montreal. We are on schedule to anchor tonight at Montreal around 9 pm. Tomorrow we get an early start to arrive the fist Seaway Lock at 0800 for a “check inspection” to be sure the ship will “fit” in the locks (PRIDE has been through the Seaway many times and remains unchanged so a “check” inspection is permitted). Once cleared to proceed, we do so without pilot and start the “climb” up the remaining length of the St. Lawrence River to Lake Ontario through the locks of the Seaway system. In general, after re-evaluating our fuel situation, it appears we should be able to arrive Oswego Thursday afternoon, barring some unforeseen weather.

The first group of pilots we picked up at Escumins shared the possibility that PRIDE would be slow enough to miss the start of flood current at Quebec City late Sunday night and if so may be required to anchor to wait for the following flood timed for Monday morning. As it turned out, PRIDE was just fast enough that the second group of pilots came aboard at 30 minutes after midnight and guided us through the night without having to stop. But PRIDE is not fast enough to arrive Montreal today before 4 pm to get the required inspection during normal working hours. So we will anchor for the night and proceed again in the morning. If we were in a really big hurry, we could pay out over $650 for an “overtime” inspection late tonight and continue on. But being a not-for-profit company in an economic downturn environment, I do not think it is an unimportant decision to pay out such a fee just to be sure we are on time. Especially as I believe we can be on time even after a night of being at anchor in Montreal.

Meanwhile, PRIDE was passed by LYNX early Sunday and has in turn passed LYNX late last night as LYNX did a prudent thing of going to anchor to wait the Monday morning flood from Quebec City. They will get a night’s rest. They will get to pass Quebec City today in daylight and see the prettier part of the middle section of the river. But it will take about 20-22 hours for them to reach Montreal…so they will arrive just before business hours on Tuesday. A busy day will follow taking care of business such as getting a full Seaway inspection because LYNX has never been into the “system” before. With luck, they may be starting up the last third of the river and through the locks starting sometime mid afternoon Tuesday. Even with the later departure, they should be able to arrive Oswego Thursday afternoon as well…baring any strong contrary weather we have not yet heard may occur.

Weather today here is a moderate summer day of low 70’s with low humidity as a result of a cold front that passed through the area last night. We have clear skies and light winds from the northwest. This third group of pilots likes to steer for themselves, so the crew is free to do maintenance.

Considering we will anchor tonight we will go to “all hands” this afternoon and get more maintenance done. Tomorrow we will probably remain all hands till sometime in the afternoon…so maybe a lot of maintenance can be done.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

PRIDE picks up St. Lawrence River Pilot

0830 hours Sunday June 20, 2010

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II was boarded at 0745 by the first set of pilots serving the required pilotage area for vessels greater than 37 meters (PRIDE is just less than 48 meters sparred length) serving the St. Lawrence River between Escumins, Quebec (just east of the Saguenay River as it intersects the St. Lawrence River) and Montreal. Typically it takes PRIDE near 48 hours and 3 sets of pilots to cover the 260 nautical miles from the pilot station at Escumins up the river past Quebec City to Montreal. From Montreal it will take PRIDE (without pilot) another near 36 hours to make Lake Ontario. In general, if nothing strange happens, it appears PRIDE is on schedule to make Oswego by late Thursday.

PRIDE’s fuel situation seems adequate as well. According to measurements and calculations there remains aboard PRIDE enough fuel to run with two engines for another 95 hours. If it takes 84 hours to get to Lake Ontario, that leaves about 11 hours of fuel left to get to Oswego. Considering there will be open Lake Ontario waters with no contrary current available to sail on verses the tight constantly running (contrary current flow heading down stream) river width that requires motoring, it is quite likely PRIDE will be able to sail without using engine power the last bit of distance to Oswego as PRIDE crosses the width of Lake Ontario. But even if she must motor the last distance across the lake, it looks like there will be fuel to do so.

The gale winds forecast for last night never materialized for PRIDE. There were rain clouds and lightning. But no high winds and no thunder was heard. Through the night and as this log is being written the wind has remained less than 15 knots. The forecast this morning suggests light winds for the start of today with “strong” winds due this afternoon. We cannot find a forecast for tomorrow. Hopefully it won’t bring really strong head winds (“strong wind” is Canadian jargon for winds less than 30 knots…bad enough if actually true when blowing on the bow…not good at all if stronger than 30 knots). The prevailing wind direction is down river or from the southwest, right from the direction we must go. Sometimes the wind can be quite strong…almost always it is 15-20 knots, hence an additional constant drag on PRIDE’s fuel economy as she “climbs” up the St. Lawrence River against the stream. During all of this motoring up river PRIDE will be gaining altitude above sea level. Lake Ontario is 243 feet above sea level. Most of that height will be climbed by a series of locks that will lift PRIDE some 40 feet each. But some of the height will be made by motoring against the current up the river to Montreal.

Now that the first two pilots are aboard to take us as far as Quebec, ship routine is back to normal save for the fact the pilots will issue instructions for where to steer rather than the watch leaders or the captain. But even with the pilots giving such direction, PRIDE’s watch leaders and captain must maintain vigilance. They must be aware, observe and understand all of the steering orders given by the pilot. If PRIDE’s watch leaders do not understand why any steering order is given by a pilot, they should still obey the request but immediately inform the captain…unless it is clearly obvious the new steering order is dangerous. The reason for this is that maritime pilots do not assume liability for damage or injury that comes from their orders. Such damage or injury as occurs by a pilot given order is still the liability and responsibility of the master. So, while the pilots exercise their intimate knowledge of the river as they guide PRIDE along, the officers and crew of PRIDE observe and permit those orders to occur as long as there is no danger presented by the pilot given order.

Pilots offer a window into the local culture and news of an area. They are the first introduction to their country the crew of a vessel will experience. Pilots are of course also a source of maritime information. As such I just learned that PRIDE’s timing of arrival at Escumins has her meeting the beginning of a significant ebb water between Quebec and Montreal starting when these first pilots think we will arrival Quebec near midnight tonight. Some of the ebb current can be six knots! Our first pilots have suggested it may be prudent to have PRIDE anchor till the beginning of the flood toward Montreal starting just after the first low water tomorrow morning around 0900. Anchoring from near midnight till 0900 will likely mean we do not arrive Montreal till early Tuesday morning. Overall this should not have a negative affect for being able to arrive Oswego by late in the day Thursday June 24. While such a delay seems not to be a problem I find myself disappointed. I had visions of reaching Montreal Monday afternoon in time to continue on into the Seaway lock system and getting ahead of the schedule somewhat to relax the crew.

Isn’t it the French language that provides us a quaint response to such a disappointment? I think that phrase is “C’est la vie.”

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II