Reaching for New England

29 September, 2011
Pos: 42 55.2’N x 067 46.0’W
Wx: SxW F5, Seas 3-5′ Overcast

Pride of Baltimore II left Lunenburg yesterday morning after a few great days of revelry with the crews of two great schooners and one outstanding barque. From the time we secured and cleared back into customs on Sunday night, there was a sense of excitement along the Lunenburg waterfront – already a-thrum with commercial fishing fleets, a pair of twin cruising schooners under construction, Picton Castle’s Bosun School in session and the Canadian Icon Bluenose II being refit. With Lynx, Highlander Sea and Pride II added to the mix, you could scarcely turn around without seeing a postcard worthy shot.

To celebrate the good fortune of having a hefty gathering of schooners in town, Captain Dan Mooreland, the talented staff of Windward Isles trading company, and the eager crew of Picton Castle hosted all us visiting Americans to a barbeque on Monday night. This was the single biggest gathering of sailors outside a Tall Ships event I’ve seen in quite awhile, and a great time for all. Many thanks to Captain Mooreland and all the Picton folks for all their hospitality.

Our unexpected and welcome stop, however, had to end. Wednesday morning greeted us with a chill more characteristic of Autumn in Nova Scotia, and we needed make tracks for the US before the wind also turned a more characteristic Southwesterly. Lynx and Highlander Sea had made great show in their departures by sailing off the dock – Lynxeven backed off the dock using her foretops’l – and so there was little choice but to follow suit.

Being rafted to Picton Castle, even with her yards braced up and her davits swung in, presented particular a particular challenge to sailing off. But fortunately, we were able to send an offshore line across the slip to government wharf. The crew pulled Pride II away from Picton Castle by hand, set the stays’l, and then hoisted the foretops’l to the chant of “Thank you Picton!” and we were away. But we weren’t totally gone until we saluted Lunenburg with a proper four guns.

That was yesterday morning at 1000 ADT. Pride II has been sailing since, sometimes slowly, but for the middle part of today, the increasing Southeasterly going Southerly had us holding 12 knots fairly often. But it isn’t just sailing for fun. The wind, as forecast, has already veering and there is little hope of making a landfall anywhere South of Portland, Maine without going into the teeth of a strong breeze. So we’re driving Pride II for all she’s worth toward New England.

All best,
Captain Jamie Trost and the steep heeling crew of Pride of Baltimore II

Diverting for. . . Weather?

Position: Rafted Alongside the Barque Picton Castle, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Wx: W F 1, Clear, Way too warm to be Nova Scotia
September 26, 2011

Sunday, September 25 was a glorious day for weather, schooners and sailing camaraderie. After alternately sailing and motoring in nearly clockwork fashion of 12 hour stretches through fog, light air and misty rain, since locking through the Straight of Canso Friday night with her sister privateer Lynx, Pride of Baltimore II was suddenly bathed in sunlight and the weather was down right hot. A southwest breeze filled in at 0800, we secured engines and re-set the jibs, fores’l and foretops’l, which had all be taken in for motoring the night before.

On the horizon was Lynx, who had made better progress by using a bit more petroleum on Saturday. We set the t’gallant, closed with them and spent an hour tacking and wareing around each other just off the mouth of Lunenburg Bay, showing off for the few folks around in small boats or ashore, but mostly maneuvering for our own fun, in much the same way dolphins jump and twist in our wake. This is something we rarely get to do, sail simply for the sake of sailing. Our passages between ports are focused on making best speed, and our maneuvers and grandstanding are so often center-stage affairs, part of a parade or film shoot, timed to please crowds or media. While we always enjoy showing off Pride II, this time we got to show her off for ourselves.

As playground for our antics, we could scarcely have imagined better. With the wind at force three, Pride II and Lynx were both comfortably carrying all the sail they owned. Nova Scotia’s hills glowed lush and green in perfect sunlight – so rare on a coastline normally draped in fog. A barely perceptible roll reminded us with each heave that this was not the protected Chesapeake, but the open ocean. Still, the flat water let us do the incredible things Baltimore Schooners can do – pinpoint turns, incredible pointing – while above the jagged coast loomed the spires of Lunenburg, a favorite destination for all sailors.

And the crew, between each maneuver, burned with the question “Will we stop?”

Our friends aboard Highlander Sea were already there. Lynx had made it clear they would hail. World-voyaging Picton Castle, so often absent to far flung reaches of the world, was in port. Boston, our destination, was now just 350 nautical miles off, and we still had seven days to get there.

What else could a captain do? If I had tried to sail past, I’d have worried half the crew might swim for shore. The forecast called for flat clam until Wednesday, then coming Easterly, so there was nothing to gain by staying at sea. I made arrangements with Customs. Officially, we were diverting for weather. This is actually true, but not in the sense of thrashing gales, impending hurricanes and heaping seas traditionally evoked by the phrase. I suppose, to be technical, we were diverting for a LACK of weather. If the calm conditions were preceding strong Westerlies, we’d have had to make a mad dash to beat them. Instead, by waiting for the Easterlies, we’d save fuel.

So, “yes,” I told the crew, we’d stop in Lunenburg. But we weren’t just going there, we were grand standing in, so they’d better be spot on. This was no easily awed audience we were about to parade in front of, but a salty town full of working mariners who know their schooners. Plus, the wind had shifted West Northwest, putting the town nearly straight to weather, and meaning we’d be short tacking up the rock and shoal studded length of Lunenburg Bay. They answered the challenge and at 1650 local time, Pride II rounded up just off Picton Castlewith a thunder of cannon and flurry of sail handling. Folks out on a Sunday stroll lined the piers to watch. We weren’t just sailing for ourselves after all, but we didn’t mind at all.

All best,
Jamie Trost and sunbasking (really? In Nova Scotia?) crew of Pride II

Too Busy for Blogs and Setting Up for Southerlies

22 September 2011
Pos: 48 12.2’N x 064 02.9’W
Wx: South F 1, seas calm, 3/8 Stratus in the Southeast Distance

When I last wrote and said we had sailing to do, I had no idea how intense an understatement I was making. We had a forecast, past the pilot station, for Southwest and West winds of decent strength, and I was guessing that with the current, we’d be able to sail. I never expected that we’d see stretches longer than a mere gust into gale force, or that we’d have Pride of Baltimore II surging up to 13 knots over the bottom.

But that’s how the story played out. Sailing through the night of the 20th to 21st under Fores’l, Stays’l, Foretops’l, Jib, T’gallant and Stuns’l, we made great progress with a West-Southwest breeze. As the forecast called for a Westerly veer, we didn’t set the Mains’l to minimize the work of the crew in wareing ship – this is the action of turning the stern of the vessel through the eye of the wind. Commonly, it is called gybing these days, but though the terms are nearly synonymous, gybing is what you do with a fore-and-aft rigged sail such as Pride II’s Mains’l, while wareing is the action of the ship itself.

Whichever way you slice it, making that maneuver with Pride II’s 2200 square feet of Mains’l is a lot of work. So we left it off and were still making seven and eight past the steep to shores along the South side of the river. Our friends on Highlander Sea — an historic Boston Pilot Schooner on her way from Port Huron, Michigan to Gloucester, Massachusetts in search of a potential new owner – were either in sight or trackable on radar through the night and appeared hull-down (with only the sails visible) the next morning well to the North of us.

After completing what seemed like our last ware at 1000, we finally did set the Mains’l in the hopes of using the Westerly to get clear out of the river and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence before the forecast calm had us motoring. With the Mains’l set Pride II was constantly over 10 knots and topped off at 13.2. As if competing with our increased sail plan, however, the winds in the lower river exceeded their forecast strength and got up around gale force. The combination of wind increase, wind shift and moderately confused sea was making Pride II more than a handful, so the Mains’l came in around 1500.

The sail suffered some minor damage from chafing on a ratboard while we took it in, so Pride II crew have been working ardently on a patch repair during all the daylight hours, and sometimes with headlamps at night too. Having worked for a sailmaker, I often find myself one of the few aboard who can effect such repairs, but fortunately for us, there are several crew who are handy with a needle and thread. Having sailed aboard Picton Castle under Captain Dan Mooreland, deckhands Susie Ordway and Meredith Spratt are well versed in sailmaking, as the seamanship training program aboard Picton Castle includes teaching sailmaking skills by actual making sails for the ship by hand. Alex Peacock and Barbara Krasinski also did some fine sewing, as the job was traded off between the watches.

Fortunately, we haven’t needed the Mains’l for the last 20 hours. Unfortunately, we haven’t had enough wind to use any of the sails for the last 10 of those hours. We lost the breeze and started motoring around midnight last night, having nearly reached the official mouth of the St. Lawrence at Cap Rosiers. Stacked on top of our exciting sail from Hamilton, which included sailing the entire American section of the river (except for maneuvering in and out of the Iroquois lock), our performance the last few days means Pride II sailed nearly every mile of the river where she was not required to carry a pilot. Hats off to the crew and guest crew for all the work involved in maneuvering her along those waters.

Now, out in the Gulf, we are set up to make use of the Southerlies and Southwesterlies in the forecast. In our motoring so far we have hugged the Western shore of the Gulf, and now have Pride II set up with a favorable slant to lay a course to East Point on Prince Edward Island without tacking. As I write, the breeze is teasing its way up to sailing strength and we’re ready make good use of it.

All best,
Captain Jamie Trost and the searching for wind Crew of Pride of Baltimore II

Tides, Again

20 September 2011
47 21.4’N x 070 15.5’W
Wx: SW F3, Light Rain

Some say all good things must end – casting off lines and heading out from Montreal yesterday at 1230, the crew of Pride of Baltimore II were in full agreement. Canada’s little piece of Europe had plenty to interest and even overwhelm the crew ashore, while Pride IIwas herself a spectacle for 8,789 visitors to Les Grand Voiliers sur les Quais. After brilliant weather for the opening Parade of Sail, things turned to chilly rain for Thursday, keeping all but the hardiest away from the ships. The visit brought a crescendo of improving weather which crested Sunday with clear skies, calm winds and temperatures near 70 degrees. A perfect late summer day in a perfect port!

With good weather continuing through yesterday, we went through the hustle and scramble of getting Pride II ready for sea again. Customs forms and currency exchanging, packing up and stowing of all the in-port gear while turning on the weather fax and sat phone. With the westbound vessels – the Brig Niagara, the brigantines St. Lawrence II and Pathfinder, and the schooner Challenge – all held up for traffic in the Seaway Locks until noon, we made our departure together. This unintentional spectacle once more drew eager crowds to the dock – we saluted before racing down the current under the Jacques Cartier Bridge. Our sister Privateer Lynx was off the dock just after us and the schooner Highlander Sea locked through just ahead of our departure. The three schooners are all bound for coastal Massachusetts, and have a number of shared friendships among the crews, so we’re sure to be in contact as we make our way out the river and through the gulf.

It is good to be traveling with friends, so to speak. As I write this, Pride II is well beyond Quebec, having past its enormous Citadel just before 0400, and into the lonely stretches of the lower river. The shores are lined with high wooded mountains and washed soft with the light rain. There is scant population along the shore. In some sections, only the buoyage in the river gives indication that we aren’t traveling with Champlain or Cartier some 400 years ago. This landscape is at once beautiful and foreboding, settled little since the days of exploration.

And in it Pride II is experiencing her first taste of tides in exactly three months. And they are no small tides. Even fighting the weaker flood current has slowed us down over two knots, and when the ebb begins, we’ll gain three or four in some sections. The return to salt, or at least brackish, water has her feeling more buoyant and springy, even though the draft changes a mere two inches with the density of water. The Lakes are behind Pride II now, for another year. We bid them a fond adieu, but have no time now to reminisce. Boston is still 1000 miles off, and we have sailing to do.

All best,
Jamie Trost and getting saltier by the minute crew of Pride of Baltimore II

St. Lawrence Sailing

15 September 2011

Pos: Alongside Jacques Cartier Basin, Montreal, Quebec
Wx: Overcast, cool, French

It is physically possible for Pride of Baltimore II’s passage from Hamilton, Ontario to the Iroquois Lock in the St. Lawrence River to have included more sailing, but only just. Having sailed off the dock in Hamilton Monday morning, we were less than a mile from the head of Burlington Bay, and when the foretops’l finally came in on Tuesday, 225 nautical miles and 27 hours later, the Iroquois lock was in sight. That’s an average speed of 8.25 knots. Our passage across the Lake took less than 20 hours, and at one stage the Vessel Traffic Control center at Seaway Sodus was concerned that at 11.5 knots we were going TOO FAST and would get to the Snell Lock before a pilot could be scheduled to meet us!

We assured the folks at the Seaway we would be slowing down once out of the open Lake, past Cape Vincent and into the river. We did, but only barely – with the breeze still favorable and help from the following current we carried on into the Thousand Islands area under four lowers and foretops’l.  Near the town of Clayton, NY, we loaded our starboard guns for a salute. Earlier this season, I spent a week in Clayton while serving as relief Captain of Lynx, and discovered the town both loves ships of all kinds and is chock full of generous and hospitable folk. Event organizer Michael Folsom contacted Pride II via text message and alerted the town we’d be passing by, and Mayor Norma Zimmer, who sailed aboard Lynx from Ogdensburg to Clayton with me in the spring, was standing on the dock. We feathered up close enough to say hello and pass a warning that we’d be saluting, fired, then bore off to keep reaching down the river.

After passing Clayton, I began pondering just how far we could carry on under sail. We were making 8-10 knots, faster than we’d likely be motoring and the course up the river required just a few maneuvers, waring ship along the bends of the river to reduce the risk of accidentally gybing the mains’l. In the spring, I had the good fortune of being able to sail Lynx UP the river from Ogdensburg, NY to Clayton with a 25 knot North Easter, and then sail from Clayton half way across Lake Ontario to Rochester a week later. This gave no small personal motivation to be able to make a “round trip” of the upper river by sailing at least to Ogdensburg.

And Pride II did exactly that, carrying four lowers and the foretops’l to within sight of the Ogdensburg Prescott Bridge, before reducing to just the foretops’l. With more current in that section of the river, plus the wind increasing to near 40 knots, we kept making 10 knots until sighting Iroquois Lock, taking in the tops’l and firing up engines to Slow down. Unlike our approach to the SOO Locks in July, there was no safe way to sail into Iroquois with the breeze being what it was. In fact, it was workout enough to get Pride II pointed in the right direction and slowed down enough under power.

Once clear of the lock, we took advantage of the breeze, re-set the foretops’l and sailed clear to the American locks, right at the Canadian border. After securing precariously at the approach wall of the Eisenhower Lock for passing traffic, we got underway again at sunset, dropped down to the lower level and secured at the Snell Lock approach wall to wait for our pilot. Pride II has never required a pilot in the St. Lawrence Seaway before, but new Canadian regulations make it necessary, so we were forced to coordinate our passage with the 12 hour advance notice the Pilots require. By the time we boarded our first Pilot, the breeze had died down and the passage was made entirely under power. With no traffic to hold us up, we made the last lock, St. Lambert, at 1041, exchanged for a Harbor Pilot, and waited at anchor for the rest of the fleet to arrive and start the Parade of Sail.

As if on schedule for the parade, the skies cleared and the breeze became a nearly sailable SW. Not that sailing from the Longueuil Anchorage into the Jacques Cartier Basin would be possible except with ideal conditions – the Lachine Rapids, which the first locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway circumvent, have the current on the approach to the Basin running at 6 knots. The bouys to mark the channel have to be specially made so they aren’t swept under water and low horsepower vessels have a slow transit of the area. With thousands of people watching the procession of six sailing vessels, the slow approach must have created a sense of suspense. At 1630 sharp, Pride II ended the anticipation by firing a salute just off the basin. We even shifted a gun from port to starboard to add flair.

With all ships secure at the dock, we’re ready for a weekend of heavy traffic. Last year over 9,000 people came to see Pride II in just three days, and this year we’re here for four. I hope the crew have been brushing up on their French.

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

Last Lake

 12 September 2011
Pos: 43 30.5’N x 078 52.7’W
Wx: SWxS F 5

After a hectic late week and weekend in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, respectively, Pride of Baltimore II is underway once more, this time headed down the length of Lake Ontario and entering the 662 nautical miles of the St. Lawrence River. While the big city hustle and the Toronto International Film Festival overshadowed Pride II’s visit, the crew were still able to capitalize on the Orioles being in town to play – and defeat – the Toronto Blue Jays. During our Thursday and Friday stay there, Craig Weeks and company at Toronto Harbourfron Centre were terrific in their support.

Sailing to Hamilton on Saturday morning, Pride II took center stage, even outstripping the HMCS Montreal, a Canadian Frigate for the attentions of the town. We arrived to Hamilton Harbor with an Easterly breeze and threaded our way through a slough of sailing races to grand stand in front of Hamilton’s Marine Discovery Center. Opening at 1530 once the ship was secure and the gangway suitable, we saw 995 people visit by 1900, and then another 2186 between 1100 and 1800 Sunday. Hamiltonians are proud of their history, enthused about all things maritime and even had a pirate themed roller-derby in honor of our visit! Thanks to all the folks who made our visit to the Western-most port on Lake Ontario a great one.

As I write this, Pride II is charging along between 8 and 10 knots under all plain sail, plus the stuns’l and t’gallant. The breeze is forecast to hold and possibly increase while remaining from some Westerly direction, which means it’s a favorable breeze all the way to Montreal, our next port. With such conditions, it looks as if we may not get to add Lake Ontario to our swim call list, but, having sailed off the dock in Hamilton this morning, we may trade that check mark for being able to sail the entire length of the Lake. Here’s hoping.

All best,
Jamie Trost and Montreal bound crew of Pride II