Safe alongside in Superior

27 July 2010
Pride of Baltimore II
Wx: NW F 3, Gusting 6, Thunderstorms and Lightning
Secure in Superior, Wisconsin

Pride of Baltimore II is secure along side a disused and currently being renovated iron ore dock. There was no trip to the Apostle Islands, only a brief glimmer of Outer Island, Rocky Island, and the lighted aids on Devil’s Island and Sand Island under the just waning moon. But we were still sailing at 6 knots when we saw them. With the options I had conjured for Pride II’s passage end-game into Duluth, I wasn’t sold on or married to an one particular one, but did not want to veto the Apostle Islands stop out of hand until I was certain that the weather would make it pointless. As it stood, we were having a great passage, and I wanted to know what the crew, and particularly the guest crew, were interested in.

So I did something rather unusual in maritime life – I invited all hands aft to the quarter deck, laid out the four options, and invited them to vote. However, I placed the very large asterisk that their vote was in no way final, and they would simply play the legislative branch to my executive branch. And not even a unanimous vote out of their congress would be let to override my say.

I had an idea, going into the discussion, that the hope of a peaceful anchoring was gone, but also that there would remain workable breeze for us to close the distance towards Duluth for sometime before things got soggy, and finally snotty. So I may have used a tinted brush in painting out the different scenarios. But as it happened, the crew’s sense of things was that the sailing was good and should continue, but anchoring in a thunderstorm was nothing to be desired.

The guest crew, in particular, expressed a desire to make their memories of Pride II slicing to weather on a glittering lake, not of all night anchor drills. As the guest crew come from far and wide for a once in a lifetime adventure, their expectations and desires are not something to be ignored, so long as they are reasonable. And, of course, fall into line with the way the master is thinking about the passage.

So, democracy at sea is a bit of an illusion. But there are limited routes through which a crew can be involved in aspects of “voyage planning.” Aboard Pride II this is a curious occurrence, not only because of its rarity, but due to historical significance. Like our ancestor privateers, who prowled the Atlantic for English ships at a heady pace under aggressive rigs, Pride II’s scheduled rate of advance allows little time to dawdle along, however intriguing the local landscape. We are either sailing hard and pushing for performance, or we are sullenly motoring to make our target speeds. But, in this case, we also resemble the privateers of 1812 in another regard – a hard case might be put to a vote.

Then, as now, this was a rare situation. A privateer seeing a fat merchant prize guarded by a hefty naval escort might have called a similar quarter deck muster among their crew, all of whom were in some respects share-holders in the enterprise. As the engagement might either yield great monetary gain, or absolute loss of life, there was a vote as to the relative worth of the gain versus the risk. Then, as now, the master reserved the right to veto.

Our situation wasn’t immediately life or death, though the forecasts deteriorated into more threatening weather shortly after the die was cast. And we all agreed to maximize the sailing, minimize the motoring and see the Apostles on another, more pleasant, day.

With a gift of Southeasterly breezes through the afternoon, we closed with the Southern Shore of Superior, sailed past the Apostle Islands and to Bark Point, Wisconsin – 40nm East of Duluth – before frequent wind shifts and increasing drizzle marked the onset of the weather to come. After 400nm of sailing, 280nm made good along the rhumbline, 15 tacks and 83 hours, Pride II started a steady motor to the safe harbor of Superior Wisconsin.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the snug in at Loon’s Foot Landing Crew of Pride II

Sailing under all plain sail

26 July 2010
Pride of Baltimore II
Pos: 47 36.6’N x 089 20.8’W
Wx: SSW F 3
Sailing under all plain sail
Course: 272, Speed: 6.0 kts

Another splendid sailing day aboard Pride of Baltimore II. The sea state is still calm, the wind still enough to move us along, though also still coming from nearly exactly where we want to go. This morning we tacked South off Isle Royale. So we have passed the eye of the wolf’s head and approach our destination at the end of the snout. But, it seems, our weather luck is coming to an end.

The best-laid plans of anchoring in the Apostle Islands in the way I had imagined have encountered a twist. I myself may have jinxed them yesterday by speaking so glowingly of them, thinking of their rich, red bluffs crested with green pines under the kind of crystal sky we have had the last few days. Instead, the upcoming forecast is for rain, thunderstorms and brisk contrary winds. And the latest edition of the forecast has altered Wednesday’s previously workable Northwest and Northerly breezes to plain in our face West.

Resultantly, my picture perfect anchorage has been water stained and wind blown. Few locations in the Apostles would offer good protection for the variety of breezes to be expected, and we would have the poor luck of sitting just offshore the gorgeous islands in the rain with the constant threat of a storm keeping us jailed aboard monitoring the weather. “It would be like looking through the windows of a closed candy shop,” surmised deckhand Jeff Crosby, our Duluth native and as such best local knowledge of the islands.

Stopping for any time in the islands also creates the very real possibility of sloughing along the last 60 miles of lake against brisk Westerlies – no good way to end a passage that has seen such pleasant sailing, if it can be avoided.

What do to, then? Of the nearly limitless options, I conjured up four that seemed plausible:

1) Pack in all the sailing gear and motor the 60 miles to the Islands, hoping for a quite night at anchor and a brief time ashore before the rain tomorrow. Deal with snotty Wednesday Weather on approach to Duluth. 2) Continue sailing with an arrival to the Islands early tomorrow morning, then anchor and try to get ashore, still dealing with Wednesday’s weather. 3) Abandon idea of Islands and just keep sailing as long as possible, then motor to make Duluth before onset of weather. 4) Pack it all sailing gear and motor straight for Duluth, starting now. Get in well ahead of weather.

At this stage, this blog could become like one of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books so popular when I was in grade school. Each option would have a different page to turn to, with a new set of circumstances and choices.

But this is life, and there is turning back to the choosing page. Nor do I have anything but my best guess as to what the new circumstances will be.

So many factors influence the choice. The safe and on-time arrival of the ship (or early, but never late). The hope for a good experience on the part of the guest crew, who have take time out of their lives for this passage.  The cost of fuel and how much it will take to enact any of these plans. The morale of the crew. The endless list of projects to keep Pride II in working order.

All this could, in fact, make the head spin. And after a remarkable three days of beating up Lake Superior in unusual comfort behind us, veteran Guest Crew Jim Hilyard claimed today this was the most pleasant sailing he’d had in his 14 passages aboard Pride II. So the idea of “ruining” such a trip – either by motoring or through a miserable last day – seems horrifying. But one or the other is necessary.

Which will it be? Stay tuned to find out tomorrow.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the suspense-filled crew of Pride of Baltimore II

Splendid sailing in the Greatest of Lakes

25 July 2010
Pride of Baltimore II
Pos: 47 36.7’N x 087 50.0’W
Appx 8nm Due North of Copper Harbor, Michigan
Wind: W Force 4
Sailing NW at 6 knots under Four Lowers, Foretops’l and Jibtops’l

Pride of Baltimore II is having a splendid sail in the Greatest of Lakes. For nearly 48 hours now we have scarcely heard machinery aside from our daily generator cycles and a few brief periods of motoring in lulls. But mostly we have had Westerlies between 8 and 20 knots. Not the right direction, but so far Pride II has covered nearly half the distance along the rhumb line, despite the fact she’s been beating to weather the entire time.

This is one of the pleasures of sailing aboard Pride II – if she were not as weatherly, we would either be forced to start thinking about motoring now, or would have been motoring quite a bit already. But with careful attention to sail trim and helmsman-ship, plus a routine of tacking around the watch changes, we are able to make tracks in these moderate conditions without increasing our carbon footprint. It is no small task to get a sailing vessel upwind, particularly a 19th century style schooner. But that makes it all the more rewarding when we put in the effort to do so.

We have just tacked away from Michigan’s northern most town, Copper Harbor, nestled in back in the molar section of the jaw, if you follow the image of Lake Superior as a giant wolf’s head. This marks the northern most point of land for us to round, and the furthest North Pride II has been since entering the St. Lawrence River over a month ago. The days are quite long and the nights have been near crystal clear with a gleaming moon that reaches full tonight.

On this heading, there is the temptation to carry on and find an anchorage off Isle Royale, the National Park Island near the Canadian shore that forms the eye of the wolf’s head. We can only stop there on the way into Duluth, or after a diver has certified Pride II‘s bottom as free of the invader-species Zebra Mussels before leaving Duluth. The National Park Service is intent on keeping the Zebra Mussel – a Black-Sea shellfish that came to the Lakes in the ballast water of ocean-going freighters some 20 years ago – from tainting the waters of Isle Royale. And fair enough, the Zebra Mussel has been a menace on the Great Lakes. From water intakes to public beaches to the boat bottoms, the creatures have made a negative name for themselves across the region.

But the forecast is calling for brisk Southwesterlies on Tuesday and Tuesday night, which would mean a 150 nm slog toward our arrival in Duluth on Wednesday. So that distant anchorage will have to remain a notion. Lucky for us, Lake Superior offers more than one spectacular vista, and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is right on the way.

This string of islands – strangely, despite the name, more than 12 – dots the northern extremity of Wisconsin and has hosted Pride II on both of her previous voyages in Lake Superior. Once in 1989 and the other two years ago. Both times, the Pride II anchored in the cove between Rocky Island and South Twin Island. We learned this aboard in 2008 when we discovered an anchor marked on an old chart of the Apostles that was in with our Great Lakes packet. At that time, we were anchored within 200 yards of the spot. With the current forecast, however, that location won’t serve as well. But there are plenty of others to choose from in the island chain and anchoring in an area of spectacular natural beauty is never a let down.

Not that this has been a taxing trip. The breeze has been fairly steady and we are keeping ahead of schedule on it. This is a welcome contrast to the hot and humid light air racing out of Cleveland and Bay City, where the boat speed was consistently low enough to cause concern about even finishing, and the fluky breezes necessitated constant tinkering. Additionally, as Pride II was communications vessel, we were charged with roll-calling the fleet and recording positions every four hours.

Instead, on this passage, we are working our way into a crisp and comfortable Great Lakes breeze, and the only race is to get to the Apostles with enough time to enjoy them.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the crew of Pride II
(PS: Deckhand and resident comedian Jeremy Tagliaferre wishes everyone Merry Christmas, in July)

Superior Sailing

24 July 2010
Pos: 47 44.4’N x 085 12.5’W
15 nm East of Michipicoten Island, Canada

Pride of Baltimore II is back in Lake Superior for the second time in three years. This time, as last, it is the ship-enamored city of Duluth, Minnesota that draws her there. Prior to our 2008 visit to the world’s inland-most port, Pride II had been there only once, on her first Great Lakes tour in 1989.  So to be making such a quick return to a unexpectedly exotic place creates a feeling of familiarity and excitement. Our last visit there was marked by a good sailing passage and completely unanticipated reception by the people of Duluth and the surrounding area, who came out in the tens of thousands to see Pride II, the Brig Niagara and the Schooner Madeline.

So far, our passage has been decent. The breeze came up to sailing strength from the West Northwest at sunset last night, and we used for about 12 hours until it faded, gaining some ground to the North for a forecast shift to North Winds later today. We are within sight of some high and beautiful Canadian Shoreline, and motoring on one engine in a calm until the breeze returns.

During the 2008 passage there was a sense of wonderment among the crew to be bound for the “inland most” port in the world. The collective emotion aboard was hard to express, but carried the compounded awe of being so far from the ocean, so high above sea-level and passing 90 west longitude while sailing in a gigantic lake. This time around, most of the crew have changed, and for all but Jeff Crosby, a Duluth native who first introduced himself to Pride II by applying to be a deckhand during our 2008 visit, this is their first time on Superior. So, aside from the local knowledge Jeff provides, and my tales of our previous visit, the sense of newness and excitement are the same.

This marks my third trip to Duluth in three years. Last year, during one of my off stints away from Pride II, I took the Schooner Denis Sullivan from Milwaukee to Duluth. It is odd to have such a consistent run of trips to such an out of the way place – in fact, the most out of the way place – but I enjoy it and, like those in crew on their first journey here, I am still a bit awestruck.

The landscape, when we are close enough to see it, is gorgeous, and the geography of the lake lends itself to vivid and unique description. Lake Superior appears on a chart or map as a Wolf’s head. The St. Mary’s River end of it at Whitefish Bay is the throat, the Keweenaw Peninsula, jutting out from the Michigan Shore, is the open mouth. Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands dot the muzzle like whiskers and Isle Royal National Park is the eye.  Far off at the West end, at the tip of the Snout, is Duluth. And as I write, the breeze has come back and we headed that way under full sail.

All best,

Jamie Trost and the “snout”-bound crew of Pride of Baltimore II

Departing Sault Ste. Marie

23 July 2010
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Pride II preparing to shift to the Michigan side of the “SOO” for customs, then depart for Duluth.

Having finished race two of the Great Lakes Challenge Series in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Pride of Baltimore IIstayed on station near the finish line to fulfill our obligations as communications vessel until we needed to make way up the St. Mary’s River. In the lower river, off St. Joseph Island, we joined company with the Tall ship Bounty, and both vessels sailed past the ruins of Fort St. Joseph, a British military installation erected in anticipation of conflict along the United States and Canadian Frontier just before the war of 1812. Re-enactors lined the shore and the two ships sailed past firing salutes.

This unofficially marked the beginning of our visit to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, as the re-enactors at the fort were part of the multi-faceted group who approached Pride IIabout coming to Sault Ste. Marie. Due to the cruise ship Celia II occupying the dock, Bounty and Pride II made slow steady progress up the river to arrive in the evening just as the dock was clear.

What a welcoming we received from the Canadian side of the St. Mary’s River! There were thousands of people lining the waterfront parks cheering and waving. The scene was a busy one out on the river as well, with Celia II departing to make room for our historic vessels, two 1,000 long lake freighters passing in the river just astern of us, the European vessels Roald Amundsen and Europa secured on the American side and a float plane landing just off to the Canadian side of the channel.

Once secure at the Bondar marina – a facility named after one of Sault Ste. Marie’s most famous natives, Roberta Bondar, the first neurosurgeon in space – we cleared customs and prepared for the next day’s events. The schedule was typical, with public tours through the day and a private event at night. But the themes were all encompassing. The point of the festival, as with many of the festivals this year, was to highlight Great Lakes United and their mission of promoting clean water on the Great Lakes. To augment this, Bounty was representing the ever popular “pirate ship” theme North American audiences have come to love so much, and Pride IIwas to provide the maritime portion of a War of 1812 exhibit that included re-enactors of British soldiers and Canadian Voyageurs. The combined event drew 2500 visitors over Pride II‘s deck in just five hours of public tours and a one hour private event for city workers.

It is a bit strange to have such a warm reaction to an American War of 1812 vessel in Canada, particularly in Ontario, where the contest was largely fought between Canadians and Americans, and where Canada inarguably came out as the victor. With an expressed declaration of taking over southern Ontario, our young nation launched no fewer than 13 invasions into Canada, but ended up back on our side of the border each time. So, from a Canadian historical perspective, we attacked, they defended, we retreated, they won. And just as the conflict helped America develop its identity and need to take itself more seriously, the call to arms against invaders forged a Canadian national identity as well.

But at the remove of nearly 200 years, all of them peaceful, we can certainly set aside the adolescent squabble between our countries, and with motivation from Great Lakes United, join forces to help preserve our shared resource of fresh water on the Great Lakes. And what better way to draw focus to clean water than with a sleek sailing vessel that tries like crazy to keep a low carbon footprint by using the wind.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the celebrity (at least in Sault Ste, Marie) crew of Pride II

Race Two ~ underway with all sails set

20 July 2010
Pride of Baltimore II at 44 50.1’N 083 02.3’W
SE entrance to Thunder Bay Michigan
Sailing under all sail at 4.1 knots on course of 040T

Pride of Baltimore IIis back at the races. The second race of the ASTA Great Lakes Challenge Series started last night at 1900, this time in Lake Huron from just off Tawas, Michigan toward Drummond Island and the entrance to the St. Mary’s river. It would be near impossible to race in the river, and so the finish line is far from the fleet’s next scheduled port of Duluth, Minnesota. But it is still 121 nm and we’re not quite half way through it.

At the awards ceremony in Bay City, Michigan, we learned Pride II was second on corrected time for the first race. This is a disappointment aboard due to all the hard work put into that light-air race. The winning vessel, St. Lawrence II, out of Kingston, Ontario, was well sailed and put in just as much hard work, however. She is smaller, and so Pride II needed to be further ahead of her to beat her due to a handicapping system that allows dissimilar vessels to compete on a level plane. Under this system, larger vessels typically “owe” time to smaller ones, meaning they need to be a specific interval ahead for each mile that the race represents. In a race that featured a stretch of near calm for some three hours, this would have been difficult to do – when all of the boats are nearly motionless, it allows the smaller ones to “catch-up.” Particularly when they are as well sailed as St. Lawrence II. Congratulations to St. Lawrence II, and to Appledore V, who took third place.

This time the fleet started with fewer boats, as not everyone in Bay City was bound for Duluth, and not all the boats bound for Duluth were in Bay City. The Class A square riggers began early to make use of the Southerly breeze and were off and running three hours before the B, C & D boats. Lynx and Pride II were again able to make a strong showing for Baltimore Schooners at the starting line. Pride IIwas over the line 30 seconds after the gun and just finishing setting the main and main gaff tops’l. These sails had been left off for ease of maneuvering toward a downwind start line.

Sadly, Lynx’s schedule does not take them North to Duluth, but instead South to Toledo, Ohio. So they had to retire shortly into the race. Denis Sullivan also withdrew early on, and Playfair and Roseway did not start the race at all.

So currently the non-square rig class is only Pride II and Pathfinder. At our 0800 positions, Pride II was approximately 12nm ahead of Pathfinder, but Pathfinder is the same type of vessel as St. Lawrence II, so we will need to keep opening the gap if we are to finish ahead of her on corrected time.

The relatively light air conditions are again a challenge, but steadier than in Race 1. All this after a very busy port call in Bay City, where we saw nearly 8000 people board the vessel. Bay City goes all out to throw a good festival for both the public and the crews, and the amenities offered to sailors included free haircuts, free laundry and discounts at nearly every place you could think of in town.

Situated in the Saginaw River Valley, Bay City also has a nearly magic quality of warding off weather. The Parade of Sail on Thursday and the public tours Saturday and Sunday looked certain to be completely spoiled by approaching thunderstorms. Yet each time the line seemed to bifurcate around Bay City, with the thicker weather passing North over Saginaw Bay or South towards Lake St. Clair. Whatever the cause, the weather was only a problem one time through the festival, while we were securing as the last boat in
from the Parade of Sail.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the Superior Bound Crew aboard Pride of Baltimore II