Spinakers of the old world / Canals: Love ‘em and Leave ‘em / Starboard Tack! Finally and Briefly

Thursday 28 June 2012
Pos: 42 36.2’N X 070 40.1’W
Wx: ESE F 2, Seas Calm
Pride of Baltimore II at Anchor in “Western Harbor” off Gloucester, Massachusetts Nm from Baltimore: 550, Nm Sailed: 465, Average Speed Sailing: 7.8 knots.

Pride of Baltimore II has overshot Boston and is ahead of schedule. With increasingly favorable conditions yesterday, carried all plain sail and, in anticipation of the upcoming round of Tall Ships Challenge Races, did some training with our Stuns’l. This sail, properly called a “Studding Sail” expands the sail area of the Fore Tops’l out to the weather, or windward side. For those versed in modern sailing, think of it as a square spinnaker, set 85 feet above the deck. And instead of 1.5 oz nylon cloth, it’s made of real Egyptian cotton with a higher thread count than most five-star hotel sheets. Not surprisingly, while we sail hard under it, the crew is instructed that any mishandling of the delicate cloth is to be done “at their peril.”

Like a spinnaker, the stuns’l can only be carried with the wind behind, or abaft, the beam. Yesterday, the westerly backing breeze of the sun washed afternoon gave us perfect opportunity to carry it. As it’s only been set once so far this season, we called up all hands for the training. First step is setting up – because of the natural cotton cloth, the stuns’l is stowed below decks, in a protective canvas bag tucked between deck beams. While some hands negotiate the sail and the 12 foot head stick it’s lashed to out from below, the stuns’l boom – akin to a spinnaker pole – must be run out to windward from its stowed position on the fore yards. But no simple topping lift and mast ring to clip to here, this maneuver is done aloft, and requires two crew to slide the 25 foot spar out through a supporting iron at the yardarm, then lash the inboard end down to the yard. The tack is sent down to deck with one end running forward to attach to the outboard corner sail (the tack) and the other end aft to act as a guy to keep the stuns’l boom from bending forward or breaking. The sheet ties to the inboard corner (the clew). Once the sail is on deck, the halyard is tied to the headstick and the whole thing flies up like a 378 square foot kite. 

Because stuns’ls are usually reserved for the most ideal sailing conditions, it is relatively common to wish some one a “stuns’l passage.”

In our case yesterday, said passage only lasted a few hours, when gathering clouds and converging shorelines had us take it in as we approached the Cape Cod Canal. This Canal, the second in Pride II’s passage to Boston, connects the waters of Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Bay, knocking some 80 nautical miles off the trip, but creating a spectacular timing issue. These waters see tides in excess of 9 feet and with so much water moving through a man made cut, the current normally exceeds 4 knots: Miserable to fight against, a more than a little nerve-wracking to surf through a narrow, rocky cut.

As luck had it, though, we timed our arrival to the very start of the flood. The breeze faded, so far inshore, but Canal Control insists on vessels using auxiliary power anyway. With nearly everything still set, Pride II made short work of motorsailing the ten mile trip, which meant sails were set and ready for the waters of Cape Cod and Massachusetts Bays. Sailing the through the rest of the night, we tacked four times off of Cape Ann, for drill again, giving all three mates a crack at taking the ship through stays and putting Pride II on Starboard tack for all of an hour this trip before sailing to anchor off Gloucester, guns blazing.

All best,

Captain Jamie Trost and the cooling their heels crew of Pride of Baltimore II

PRIDE II ~ The Transformer of Schooners

Wednesday 27 June 2012
Pos: 41 10.7’N X 071 17.9’W
Wx: W F 3-4, Seas 2-4′
Pride of Baltimore II Sailing under All Plain Sail at 7-8 knots

Yesterday, I wrote about the various options available for sail combinations aboard Pride of Baltimore II, and narrowed it down to three basic options. Variations among these options mean there are essentially 23 different sail combinations for Pride II to ply the oceans under. That’s more combinations than the ship has bunks. And in two days of sailing from Cape May to Block Island, we’ve run through about a third of them. They have different nicknames, as groups – the “Daysail Combo” of Fores’l, Fore Tops’l, and Stays’l (called such because the ease of use and versatility mean we use is quite a bit on daysails), the self explanatory “Four Lowers,” and similar “Four Lowers and Foretop.” More traditionally, we have “All Plain Sail” which covers everything that’s actually attached to the rig. On top of that we have “The Kites” – T’gallant, Stuns’l and the nearly never used Ringtail.

Fading breezes yesterday afternoon had us set All Plain Sail, plus the T’gallant and carry that plan until around midnight, when we experienced 20-25 knots just forward of the beam. We stripped down to Four Lowers and still charged along through the night at a comfortable 9 knots, with the wind slowly backing to the west. This combination is, as described in yesterday’s blog, Pride II’s most feminine. And while the attribution to masculine and feminine qualities was described yesterday, I realize no real explanation was given. Well, there are at least a dozen to choose from, depending on whom you ask, but only one seems plausible to me. Despite the tradition of referring to all vessels as “she” or “her” in English, the French differentiate, referring to nearly all vessels in the masculine. Except the schooner – La Goélette. Add a few square sails and you get to the “hermaphrodite” tag. If you want to spend countless hours in utter confusion, Google up a discussion board focusing on the term “Hermaphrodite Brig.”

Back aboard Pride II, call her what you will, she’s our girl! And she’s the transformer of tall ships.  From our simple Four Lowers sail plan we’ve been building up with the backing and moderating breeze and are carrying All Plain Sail again, this time plus the T’gallant. Lots of changes for a 36 hour run. Lots of blisters, sweat and bruises for the crew. And we haven’t even tacked or worn ship . . . yet.

All best,
Captain Jamie Trost and the constantly sail changing crew of Pride of Baltimore II

Pride of Baltimore II Sail Diagram


Back in the Saddle — The Complex Versatility of PRIDE II

Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Pos: 39 13.5’N x 074 12.3’W
Wx: NxW F 4-5, Seas 3-5′ Clear
Pride of Baltimore II Sailing under Fore Tops’l, Fores’l, Stays’l, and Jib at 9-10 knots

Pride of Baltimore II is back at sea today after a month in her home waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Having relieved Captain Miles yesterday morning in Baltimore, I’m back at sea aboard her for the first time in nine months. Shoreside logistics kept us alongside until after noon yesterday, and our sail out from the Inner Harbor was shortened because the North wind would allow no progress up the narrow channels to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. But this morning at 0426 we secured engines and ran down the Delaware Bay like a thoroughbred horse penned up too long. Now – with a Northwest breeze intent on blowing the summer sky clear of clouds, the Ocean off the Jersey beaches alive and frothy, and six eager guest crew aboard – it’s a fine day to be back “in the saddle.”

I’ve often described the power and drive of Pride II under sail as akin to riding a strong, determined horse, a living thing that will accept direction only from knowing and deliberate hands, and then only grudgingly, and with constant reminders that, while the motivation may be yours, the power is still all hers. And crossing the lively chop at ten knots, she is still a handful. Today, however, the challenge is not how to handle her, but what to mode to sail her in. With her ever sleek Chesapeake Schooner hull, Pride II will make the most of any sailing breeze. The complexity of her Tops’l Schooner rig – sometimes called “hermaphrodite” for incorporating elements of both the more modern fore and aft rig (supposedly booms and gaffs and sails along the centerline are more “feminine”) and the husky, traditional square rig (as the theory goes yards set perpendicular to the centerline are “masculine”) – gives so many combinations of sail she’s almost three ships in one.

In more moderate or more downwind conditions, we’d simply set all sail and go with it, but as Captain Walter Rybka of the Brig Niagara famously said, “You see traditional ships with all of their sails set in two instances: idyllically perfect sailing conditions, and really bad maritime art.” And while today is a fine sailing day, it’s a shade, or a slight wind shift, shy of idyllic. Our other options demand a choice between the huge schooner mains’l and the square fore tops’l, both of which represent the same heeling force on the ship. Truth be told, we’d like to set both, but it’s too windy for that. We opted for the more versatile fore tops’l, hoping for a westerly shift. And we don’t think Pride II looks one bit less elegant and feminine without her mains’l.

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

I've a Feeling We're Not in "Kansas" Anymore

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II is currently in Hampton, VA.

The ship arrived Friday to take part in some outport festivities for Opsail Virginia 2012.  PRIDE was spending the weekend in Hampton, VA, participating in the annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival. Friday was her first night in port; nicely secured in a very small harbor. There would be no wave action to worry about. With PRIDE’s mast and rigging standing proud there is always the need to monitor wind because any wind of any strength can cause mischief with either PRIDE being shoved against or away from the dock and experiencing damage, or possibly damaging the dock…or both. So, it is the responsibility for all aboard to always keep a weather eye for the wind, even while PRIDE is ostensibly safe in harbor.

Tornado approaching.

That responsibility was in full force Friday evening and is some of the reason we realized a tornado was approaching PRIDE well enough in advance to take some remedial action. Even with such warning it was a scramble. All hands turned-to getting deck tour guests off (there were few to none aboard because of recent monsoonal rain) and collapsing the awnings. We also took time to get flags down and potentially loose deck gear below. I monitored the approaching tornado as a means of assessing how much time the crew had before they needed to be in shelter provided by being below deck.

For those of you that are “YouTube” savvy, you may already have seen the Hampton, VA tornado of last Friday evening. If yes, you may also have seen the NWS (National Weather Service) video that shows the map of the track of that tornado. I can tell you the track depicted by NWS goes exactly over PRIDE at her dock in Hampton.

Our experience of the twister while we all were below is a blur. I recall upwards of a minute of significant angle of heel…10 degrees…maybe up to as much as 15 degrees…while I watched through the aft cabin skylight the wind blow over the ship bringing rain and glimpses of debris. Overall the twister experience was less than 5 minutes. Immediately after we all were on deck assessing PRIDE’s situation.

The City of Hampton mapped the path of the tornado, based on damages. Red areas indicate clusters of damage. (Map by Robin McCormick, Communications Strategist, City of Hampton)

There was damage. An anchored sailing yacht of 40 feet was dismasted and tangled up in PRIDE’s head-rig. Another sailing vessel was alongside. The two guns on the port side were up-ended and rolled over. The dock had loose boards. PRIDE has been shifted forward some three feet despite her doubled dock-lines taken up snug. as a result there were marks and gouges in PRIDE’s railing and rigging channel for the foremast rigging. The one tangled/dismasted sailing yacht was freed of PRIDE’s head rig quickly. The sailing vessel alongside moved away immediately. PRIDE was re-centered on the dock and her fenders re-rigged. PRIDE’s rubber boat was tossed about and her gear was afloat in the harbor…crew get in the small boat and retrieved all gear. Meanwhile another tornado warning went out…so there was hesitancy committing to much re-organizing or assessing of damage. Eventually it was truly dark. Eventually the 2nd tornado warning was lifted although a tornado “watch” would remain in affect till 2 AM.So, it was all hands remain aboard…but all were dismissed to stand down after all the obvious loose bits and disorganization was addressed.

The crew readied the ship and welcomed visitors aboard Saturday afternoon for the Blackbeard Festival

There was a delay to the Blackbeard Pirate Festival start Saturday till 2 PM from what would normally have been a 10 AM start. PRIDE’s crew spent from first thing Saturday till 2 PM getting ready for public deck tours. Then half the crew were given time off. Sunday the crew started with all hands till mid-day when the other watch got their time off. Meanwhile carpentry repairs got started Sunday morning at 7:30 and continued till 7:30 pm. The carpenter, Eric Lohsey came back today at 7 AM to pick up where he left off yesterday. At the rate things are going, all actual repairs should be completed today…save for painting.

What would have happened with high winds and seas while PRIDE was sailing? Probably what has happened for the last 24 years that PRIDE has been sailing. Come back home in good shape because the crew are aboard with only one mission, take care of the ship so she can take care of you. Whereas in port the crew could at anyone time be off of the ship or not monitoring weather 24 hours a day. Had our working day the night of the twister been a normal working day, most of the crew would have been ashore. Those aboard would not necessarily been able to be aware there was imminent tornado threat till it struck. In such a situation there would no doubt have been more collateral damage. The awnings for one. So where is PRIDE safer? At sea or in port? Kind of depends…doesn’t it?

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II