A quick stop in Rockland

1900 Wednesday September 29, 2010
12 miles SW of Monhegan Island, Maine
Motoring against 20 knots of SW’erly wind

Before falling asleep last night, after an evening ashore with Rockland friends who are also professional mariners, I was able to examine the near and long term weather. I discovered that the pattern of southerly to southwesterly winds preceding a cold front northwest wind due Friday were going to be somewhat more strong as well as somewhat more uncertain as to actual timing. Strong south to southwest wind would not make remaining in Maine waters comfortable; there would be more rain as well. Waiting in Maine for the cold front to pass on Friday would pose the problem of where to wait in Maine…docking is expensive and anchoring can be problematic as well as boring to all hands “trapped” aboard. An uncertain cold front following a rather strong south to southwesterly wind flow would require additional waiting to let the 11 foot estimated sea size die down in front of the northwesterly winds and likely make PRIDE late arriving Boston, causing grief for Guest Crew travel plans. However, the southerly winds that chased us into Rockland would be moderating tonight before the stronger south to southwest winds coming on Thursday. With Boston less than 150 nautical miles from Rockland, and the capability to motor at 7 or more knots in the more moderate overnight conditions we could be in Boston early Thursday, and tied securely to a dock for the coming weather. Then there would be opportunity for maintenance and crew distraction ashore when not having to work, not to mention avoiding creating travel grief for Guest Crew. After today’s lunch we departed Rockland and are pushing on to Boston with hopes of arriving tomorrow morning before the onset of stronger southerly winds.

I am disappointed we had to leave Rockland so precipitately. There are a lot of “like minded” traditional sailors in Rockland that I have come to know well over the years. Some I have been shipmates with. There is a surprising number of alumnus PRIDE crew that has collected in the area, some originally from the area who came to PRIDE to sail. But it is truly better to have made a short visit to Rockland than none at all. Schooner Captain Friends are a wonderful source of “grounding” friendship that is not as readily available in other parts of the country. After all, there is a significant fleet of windjammers that do a wonderful sailing business in Maine waters. They are great sailors with intimate knowledge of what is involved with taking care of a vessel and her crew. PRIDE “wanted for nothing” upon her arrival in Rockland; transportation for shopping, dock with electricity and water for a night (for a discount fee), ready access to shore distraction for the voyaging crew just in from 9 days and more than 1,000 nautical miles and a case of “welcome to Rockland” beer. It would have been great to have been able to return the hospitality…but it is necessary to depart and leave behind our sincere thanks to Captain Kip Files of the Schooner VICTORY CHIMES and his officers and crew, The Barns’s of the Windjammer Pier and Captain John Foss of the AMERICAN EAGLE for the case of “welcome” beer.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Hello Maine ~ Pride II Bound for Penobscot Bay

0800 hours Tuesday September 28, 2010
Sailing towards Penobscot Bay with 20 knot southerly wind. Scattered rain. Fog. Took in main-gaff-topsail last night and topgallant this morning. Wind expected to increase to 30 knots and veer to SW sometime later today. Looking to take shelter at Rockland Harbor.

Overall the plan to wait in Cape Breton Island for the weather to change continues to prove successful. It was always uncertain what would happen after getting around Nova Scotia, largely due to the uncertainty factor of very long range weather forecasts. Hence the Cape Breton Island waiting strategy was mostly focused on how best to get around Nova Scotia and afterwards as far west in the Gulf of Maine before the next contrary weather system arrived. For a while it looked like we would be able to sail all the way to Boston and as a result arrive a long way ahead of schedule. But…that is not the situation now. To escape 30 knot southerly to southwesterly winds forecast in the Gulf of Maine for later today and because we were able to get around Cape Sable last evening, having advanced so well from Cape Canso after departing from Cape Breton Island, the updated weather reports helped me decide that the thing to do was race to upper Maine and get into a lee behind a good headland as smartly as possible. Penobscot Bay is only 120 nautical miles to the west-northwest from Cape Sable, easily sailed with a southerly wind; at 10 knots only about 12 hours away. It took till midnight to get around the blunt point of Cape Sable, and we are now making about 9 knots because the wind is more on the beam so we are having to reduce sail to keep angle of heel within the comfort zone, so it will be more like 14 hours to cross the Gulf and start to reach into the mouth of Penobscot Bay early afternoon today. Arriving back into the USA today here in Maine leaves the rest of this week till our deadline in Boston on Saturday to wait out another weather change to make the run from Maine to Boston. With luck we will be able to sail that distance rather than motor. Even if we motor, the trip from Montreal at this time of year will have been a minimum fuel consumption trip as compared to other trips around Canada coming from the Great Lakes at this time of year.

Meanwhile clearing US CUSTOMS needs to be arranged. Since 9/11 the big change in Customs procedures is the advance notice aspect. Before 9/11 a smaller vessel like PRIDE would notify Customs “upon arrival”. That is no longer permitted. Advance notice is required and must include information about who is aboard. Fortunately Pride has very able office staff to depend on to handle communications between ship and shore during those times the ship is not in harbor and able to handle communications directly. So Customs already knows we are on our way to
the United States from Montreal. They also know that we are a sailing vessel subject to weather vagaries. Now that I know where I intend to sail Pride due to the current weather forecast and have informed Pride‘s office staff, US Customs will be informed and instructions sought for what needs to happen to achieve a Customs clearance in Rockland, Maine. This should not present a great problem in Rockland as it is designated as a “Port of Entry” in the “Northeast District” of Customs, managed out of Portland, Maine. If required, we can wait till Wednesday to clear
Customs, considering the significant change in circumstances and how quickly they have precipitated. After all, this recent development is about avoiding thrashing around unnecessarily in fresh to strong contrary weather, not about getting an early clearance into the States. We can remain aboard till such time as arrangements for clearance can be organized.

Jan C. Miles and the US bound crew of Pride of Baltimore II

Approaching Cape Sable, west end of Nova Scotia

1100 hours Monday September 27, 2010
70 nautical miles east of our turn at Cape Sable
Wind SE’rly 12-16 knots, making 7-9 knots
All sail set plus top-gallant (no studding sail)

Since rounding Cape Canso (east end of Nova Scotia) mid day yesterday Pride has been enjoying steady wind & sea conditions from the southeast letting her maintain pretty steady performance through yesterday afternoon, all last night, and we look forward to these conditions continuing through the rest of today and most of tonight.

Tomorrow will bring change. By then, Pride ought to be well into the Gulf of Maine with sea room to deal with the coming change. The forecasts indicate increasing wind from the south starting tomorrow and continuing on well into Wednesday. South winds will not provide reaching conditions like we have now. Instead the wind will be more ahead of the beam. As the wind increases in strength we will need to reduce sail area and we will likely find that to remain somewhat comfortable…steering off to the north of west hence not directly toward Boston…will be indicated. Long range forecasting indicates the southerly winds are to veer further to the southwest increase some, but be less strong near shore. So I am thinking being flexible to head to the north of Boston as wind increases and veers and maybe reach reduced strength sooner may be a workable strategy for the coming weather.

We expect rain sometime tonight and continue tomorrow. For now the partly sunny day is moderately warm and dry. Rain will indeed dampen this very comfortable sail thus far.

With steady conditions such as we have been experiencing since early afternoon yesterday the on-board daily routine becomes rather repetitive. No sail change during watch and no call to have the stand-by watch come assist means everyone lives from meal to meal and sleep to sleep and watch to watch. Every four hours there is a change of watch. One group goes down to sleep as one goes up to take over and the third merely rolls over. At each watch change there is either a meal or a rummage through the snack locker. For those with more lying down and sleeping then they desire there is reading in the saloon (mid-ship cabin). Meal times are when conversation occurs between watches. Otherwise conversation pretty much only exists between watch members.

Well, I suggest everyone enjoy the current conditions…for they will change. Maybe not right away…but they will change and it looks like things will become a bit busier and less steady while also becoming wet and probably colder.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Coasting along Nova Scotia

1645 hours Sunday September 26, 2010
Sailing with all sail (including top gallant and studding sail) on a broad reach toward Cape Sable…the west end of Nova Scotia…on a breeze from the east-southeast.

The plan to remain anchored for Saturday seems to be working. We are now making our way toward Boston at around 7 knots without having to resort to motoring and we are doing so in favorable and moderate wind conditions with all sail set…a first for the newly reformed crew of Pride.

I am not sure if I had mentioned or not…but come August to September in any given year of sailing it is common for Pride crew that start at the end of February to move on after about six months aboard. This year we will have experienced three quarters crew rotation by mid-October. Right now we have rotated 50%. Due to the geography of this time period of significant crew rotation, many of the new crew have been aboard for several weeks and not had the experience of sailing with some of the sails…or have not reset some of the more commonly set sails like the mainsail…since they boarded or for several weeks after their first experience setting them. The St. Lawrence River and Canal System and in-port festivals do not lend to going sailing…hence new crew can be aboard for several weeks without having the chance to rub off their newness through lack of frequent experience with sail handling. But each time there is experience with sail handling, the newness rapidly disappears. With any decent good fortune with weather between now and mid October’s arrival home to Baltimore, this reformed crew of Pride ought to be in pretty good professional state.

The outlook for the remaining sail to Boston suggests favorable wind til mid next week, followed by contrary winds for a short while. How and where we deal with the contrary winds from the west remains a mystery for now…short of a broad strategic concept. Specifically, sail wide around the west end of Cape Sable and as the wind veers from south to southwest mid next week (hopefully we are midway across the Gulf of Maine) then turn with the veering wind and sail over toward the New England coast till either the wind continues to veer to west or north of west or Pride runs out of room, then tack to the south-southwest and sail “up” to Boston, maybe close along the New England shore. We shall see what we shall see.

What do we do when anchored for two nights and a day with no access to shore? Well…lot’s of little things. Clean, mend, organize, sort, teach & train…relax, eat and sleep. But something special can occur as well. Our little sister privateer Lynx was anchored with us. Last evening an invitation to Pride‘s company to visit after supper for tea and coffee was extended by Lynx. Two American privateers based on the 1812 War Chesapeake Bay model resting in a snug harbor in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia waiting out a change in the weather is a pretty unique thing these modern days. This was noted by a local that sent an email to Pride‘s office and it was forwarded on to Pride…it included a phone number…I called it to share my thanks for an enthusiastic welcome from ashore. The woman that answered was most appreciative of my call and explained she too had schooner history…remembered being sent into a small boat to clean the sides…just like what she was seeing happening at Pride anchored out in front of her home.

That is what can happen when anchored for two nights and a day with no access to shore.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Anchored off Cape Breton Island – waiting weather change


Pride is a new but temporary inhabitant in Inhabitant Harbor, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada (near the town of Port Hawkesbury).  We dropped anchor here about two hours ago (1400 EDT or 1500 ATD) for the purpose of waiting out a change of weather.

After successfully negotiating the last gale we are attempting to make best use of the new forecasts for fresh to strong southwest wind starting early tomorrow by hiding in a protected harbor till that weather pattern changes. If I have understood the forecast properly we will be anchored here till Sunday morning waiting for the wind to shift from the current light to moderate west to northwesterly wind to south to southwest 20 to 30 knots starting late tonight and going through all of Saturday. When that pattern blows itself out it seems the next wind pattern is to start on Sunday from north to east to southeast to south at between 10 to 20 knots though Tuesday throughout the length of Nova
Scotia. This new forecast to start on Sunday would be a favorable sailing pattern…whereas the southwest pattern would contrary…so we will remain temporary inhabitants in Inhabitant Harbor in hopes for a more favorable wind pattern.

While we wait, crew have jumped into vessel maintenance. Tomorrow we will continue with maintenance and cleaning. If we receive the favorable wind pattern on Sunday…we should continue to be on schedule for the planned arrival in Boston October 2.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Going south for the first time since Lake Erie

Sailing with Foresail, reefed Square-topsail, staysail and jib.
Wind west to northwest 20 to 25 knots.
Steering toward Canso Straits to the southeast.

After dropping off the last and third set of paired pilots at Escumins, Quebec Tuesday evening, the crew set the foresail, staysail and jib below the already set square-topsail and we turned off the engines for the first time since departing Montreal Monday afternoon.

At first the wind Tuesday evening was moderate and Pride moved along at nearly 7 knots. But by midnight the wind was down to less than 10 knots and Pride was down to one knot. But I did not choose to start engines because of a long range weather report that indicated high winds for later in the week in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that would be against us if we were there. With no reason to rush to meet those strong contrary winds Pride was left to drift along with the outgoing river current and what little favorable wind there was through the rest of Tuesday night.

The drifting plan seems to have worked out. We are now comfortably getting along toward Canso Straits with a favorable west to northwest breeze, having dawdled properly enough in the estuary portion of the St. Lawrence River to avoid the gale force southwesterly winds that blew last night in the Gulf of St Lawrence. While we avoided the strong and contrary winds we are experiencing the left over swell of last night’s gale. 

Not that we avoided gale winds! The same weather system that produced the gale winds from the southwest in the Gulf produced gale winds from the west in the river estuary. Last night Pride sailed along dead downwind at between 10-12 knots with only her reefed square-topsail and full staysail set . With a full moon and cloudless night the evening was bright and surrealistically beautiful, enhanced by the bright view of the tall hills of the Gaspe Peninsula passing by on our starboard. 

Looking forward to the next five days of weather it seems we should again not be in any hurry. Another low system with associated high following behind is forecast to pass across our path as we look to go around Nova Scotia. It seems there will be fresh southwest winds on the Atlantic side of Nova Scotia Saturday…just after we pass through the Canso Straits and start to make our turn to the westward at Cape Canso on the east end of Nova Scotia. I am not interested in trying to go against 20 odd knots of southwest wind…so it looks like we may be considering finding an anchorage for the forecast southwesterlies. Hopefully they will not persist for long. A couple of days worth of delay will put some pressure on our deadline to arrive Boston the Saturday after this coming one.

We continue to have the company of our “smaller” privateer friend Lynx. She is just ahead of us by less than 5 miles having motored longer in the St. Lawrence than we did. Even without setting the mainsail aboard Pride we seem to be slowly closing the gap on Lynx. Meanwhile, if the forecast of weather pans out, we will be arriving Canso a full day earlier than we can make use of considering the forecast of fresh southwesterly winds…so maybe we will be anchoring together for a bit waiting for the contrary winds on the south side of Nova Scotia to change.

In other more mundane news…but singularly important to us aboard Pride…The engineer just fixed a problem with the generator’s cooling system. It is not certain what actually went wrong. But proper diligence by engineer John Pickering identified a cooling pump malfunction during morning start-up procedures. With a full spare pump at hand as well a drive belt…less than an hour later…the generator was running smoothly and coolly as it refilled batteries and fresh water to last us the next 10 hours before the generator is started again for another two hours or so every 10 hours for as long as we sail. Our little island civilization continues to be as comfortable as ever it has been on voyages of several days length due to extensive planning and preparation.

Captain Jan C. Miles and the southbound crew of Pride of Baltimore II