"Farewell to (Tall Ships) Nova Scotia," Two Quaint and Totally Different Towns, and Chasseur – Pride II's Pride and Joy

Tuesday, 31 July, 2012
Pos: 43 21.2’N X 066 42.1’W
Wx: WSW F 2, Seas 1′, Fog
Pride of Baltimore II Motor-Sailing under Mains’l, Gaff Tops’l and Stays’l at 6 knots.

After nearly two weeks in the cold waters and warm hospitality of Nova Scotia, Pride of Baltimore II is bound for Maine and the USA. Since our fully-packed stay in Halifax, and our action-packed passage from the Nova Scotian Capital, the pace took a decidedly more relaxing turn in the Southwestern shore towns of Lunenburg and Shelburne. But our hosts stayed just as welcoming and the visitors to the ship just as excited. Open to the public for two days in both places, Pride II saw more visitors than the total population in each town – 4422 in Lunenburg and 2888 in Shelburne! And while both towns could safely and accurately be described as “quaint,” they are about as different as can be.  

Steeped in the history of Loyalists to the crown fleeing a fledgling America for still British Canada, Shelburne has an almost English feel to it. And the flotilla of private vessels who welcomed Pride II in on Friday afternoon illustrated that they temper their ardent preservation of history with performance modern sailing. A good fit for Pride II. On arrival, the local Longboat Society, who maintain and drill with a pair of 27′ replica Bounty-style longboats, hosted a reception aboard in full 18th Century attire. With the rest of the fleet delayed by weather and Pride II there alone, they Society regaled us with the history of their town, featuring seven generations of the Cox family building fishing vessels, from schooners to dories to power-driven boats. The buildings of the Cox shipyard are all a museum now, immaculately preserved and giving the town an almost movie set quality along the waterfront. Dozens of people in traditional costume or pirate garb frequently firing off replica weapons only added to the picture.

Though small, Shelburne was certainly cozy and welcoming, from the initial flotilla to the sparse crowd on the dock to see our departure. Once off the dock, we shut down straight away, set the foretops’l and fired port guns in salute, then ran down the harbor on a Northeast breeze. The harbor itself seemed loath to let us leave, presenting us with a Southerly just before we cleared the outer reaches, and forcing us to short tack our way out beyond the rocky headlands. But it is, in fact, “Farewell to Nova Scotia” for us. 

But let’s not forget about the middle port in our Canadian foray – Lunenburg, a fishing town with an active working waterfront full of trawlers and draggers, all against a museum-like backdrop of Victorian houses and traditional ships. Homeport to Canada’s iconic schooner Bluenose II (currently being rebuilt), she is also the home of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. The museum has excellent exhibits and historic ships, but the thing it truly captures is the spirit of the town’s seagoing history. And modern day adventurers can hail at the offices for the world-ranging barque Picton Castle, a ship whose exotic voyaging, international crew and preservation of traditional seamanship perpetuate Lunenburg’s connection to the sea.

The sea is truly in the blood there – against a background of seven tall ships, the mooring field south of the waterfront was littered with local traditional small craft. On Wednesday night they were all underway for racing or fun, and Pride II’s crew was even invited to borrow a dory schooner appropriately named Miscreant. Post sailing, racing or not, all hands are called to the Malagash Harbor Yacht Club for burgers and beers.

Perhaps the most perfect yacht club in all the world, the Malagash’s Clubhouse consists of two rafts pinned together – one with a small shack and one with a barbeque grill – on a mooring in the harbor. Membership is granted on arrival, the dress code encourages shorts and bare feet, and access is only by boat. Looking around at a fleet of twenty or so traditional craft rafted up to the “club,” I found myself thinking a person could say they were raised “Lunenburg” in the same way they might say they were raised Catholic, or Jewish, or Presbyterian. Seafaring is not a pastime in Lunenburg, it is a cultural imperative.

And among those rafted boats was Pride II’s own Chasseur. Named with an historic nod to Thomas Boyle’s famous privateer, and often called “the world’s most expensive deck-box,” Chasseur has certainly been a bit underutilized in her life. The crew is too busy, the schedule too tight, the water too murky to risk a scum line on her white hull. All these, while often true, have kept Chasseur from being used to expand the seamanship of many Pride II sailors. After all, much of what a sailor needs to know can be best learned in a small, open boat.

But Nova Scotia saw a rebirth of Chasseur. Rigged “on the hip” at our Halifax dock in order to help clear some deck space for the relatively steep gangway, she tempted more than a few crew, myself included, to take her out. So in she went, and after a night of swelling, I bailed her quick and took her for a row around George’s Island as a morning work-out. Small enough to be single-handed, yet spacious enough to hold six, she’s been rowed and sailed more in the last week than she has in my four and more years with Pride II. Both the boat and the crew are happier for it. She’s been used for R&R, physical fitness, crew training and development, and even as transportation when we showed up in style to Shelburne’s waterfront crew party.

It’s good to show her off. Her full, buoyant lap-straked hull in sharp contrast to the hard-chined and flat bottomed dories of Nova Scotia, she is pleasing to both the sailor and the on-looker. Both her hull and her cotton sail are older than all our deckhands, yet she sails with all the life and joy of a laughing child.

After half a dozen rows in her, I finally took her for a sail Sunday afternoon, in a moderate Nor’easter and a light rain. Partly out of curiosity, and partly to settle a debate with Bosun Elizabeth Foretek, I forewent the rudder and tiller, maneuvering Chasseur only by sail trim and shifting weight. Those of you skeptical as to the existence of magic should try this. Constantly adjusting her trim, often standing up with the sheet in hand and the feel of her progress under my feet through her sole boards; she demanded to be sailed like a windsurfer or a planing dingy. For steering she responded to a foot placed forward or aft, a step to leeward or by hiking out with my feet tucked under a thwart in the gusts, keeping her flat to keep her from rounding up. Then the challenge of tacking – ducking to leeward and nearly diving for the bow, standing up in front of the mast and pushing her lee rail almost under water with my foot, then scampering over thwarts to the stern sheets so her head would pay off onto the next tack. Some might say physics, but in the misty rain of Shelburne Harbor, it felt like magic.

She requires constant tinkering, just like her “mother ship” Pride II. So, good for the crew to be out and tinkering, practicing the finer details of the craft we focus so intently on aboard the schooner herself. And fitting, as we enter the thick of the War of 1812 Bicentennial, that Chasseur should be so reborn, and once again teaching us all a thing or two about real sailing.

All best,

Captain Jamie Trost and the “States” bound crew of Pride of Baltimore II (and Chasseur)

 

Hats off to Halifax, Eagle Steals our Broom, Tattooed at the Citadel and What we do “When No One’s Looking."

25 July 2012
Pos: Alongside the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, Lunenburg Nova Scotia
Wx: North Force 1, 5/8 Stratus

After an adventurous sail to windward along the Nova Scotian coast, Pride of Baltimore II is snug in the quintessentially Canadian Maritime Seaport of Lunenburg. Arriving in town along with tops’l schooners Lynx, Unicorn and Amistad we joined Larinda, Providence and Roseway for the second port of Tall Ships Nova Scotia.

Known around the fleet for its hospitality, Lunenburg follows hot on the heels of a splendid stay in bustling Halifax. From our grandstanding arrival on Tuesday, through the spectacle of an opening ceremony highlighted with as much Navy Brass as any OpSail occasion, to impressive crew events at the imposing Citadel, Halifax hosted us well. We hope the 8,900 visitors to Pride II feel we returned the favor.

As final destination in the Tall Ships Challenge series, Halifax hosted the awards ceremony for races three and four. Pride II was first again for the “Etch-a-Sketch” event of Race Three, but the US Coast Guard Barque Eagle edged us out in the “Sprint to Halifax.” As a time-trial, this fourth race was based on the corrected average speeds of the vessels over an eight-hour period. Eagle’s was .24 knots faster than Pride II’s. With our own uncorrected average being 10.23 knots, there isn’t much we could have done to push Pride II harder, but Eagle’s strategy was to wait for the breeze to build before starting their run. So no broom for a clean sweep of the series by Pride II – well done and well raced, Eagle!

Also, well done to all regiments and bands who performed the 1812 Military Tattoo at Halifax’s Citadel on Sunday night. A tour de force of fifes, drums, bagpipes and historic weapons demonstrations celebrated Canada’s rich history and highlighted the 198 years of peace and friendship between our nations. Stealing the show were the 78th Highlanders, who Pride II had the pleasure of hosting for a reception earlier in the weekend. Following their example, we did our best to close out Monday’s Parade of Sail in style as we brought up the rear of 21 ship procession around Halifax Harbour.

Not that putting on a show is new territory for Pride II. For 24 years, we’ve been striving not just to impress dockside visitors with the sleek beauty of the ship, but to inspire and awe on-lookers from shore by highlighting the characteristic nimble elegance of the Baltimore Privateers she so thoroughly represents.

Our arrival and departure from Halifax are prime examples – outbound, we carried easy sail to stay at the required parade speed of five knots until we made the final run along the downtown waterfront and cracked on the mains’l and jib to charge out to sea. But on arrival day, with the Harbour mostly to ourselves, we barreled in under all plain sail, made a few passes by downtown at seven knots, then in a barrage of four guns took in sail and rounded up close enough to our wharf to pass lines.

We hoped to impress, and the gathered crowd on the pier seemed to confirm it. In fact, one onlooker even said “Good show. But what do you guys do when no one’s looking, you still use the sails?”

The only answer I could give was this: “When no one’s looking? That’s when we do all the REALLY cool stuff.”

Sounds glib, but it’s true. Our extended experiment in live action nautical archeology is on-going. Thrashing our way out of Halifax, we noticed a slight tear in the lower section of our fores’l, so we reefed it to contain the damaged portion and sailed on, beating our way out to sea as if it were 1812, and at the end of the day, sailing on the anchor at 23:45 in Rose Bay, eight miles from Lunenburg. Too bad that no one could see us, because handling 8000 square feet of sail in the pitch dark and rounding up safely to drop the hook someplace we’d never seen before was a particularly handy piece of seamanship by the crew.

All best,
Captain Jamie Trost and the smart sailing Crew of Pride of Baltimore II

Etch-a-Sketch in Cape Cod Bay, A Place for the Birds, Tide Bound in a Rocky River and Waiting Winds of Nova Scotia

23 July 2012

Pos: Alongside the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Wx: South Force 2, Clear

Pride of Baltimore II has had a busy interval since her last Blog; and it was full of racing, anchorages, tides, fog and more racing. Eleven days ago we cleared through the Cape Cod Canal, and by mid-morning began our time trial for the third race of the Tall Ships Challenge. Prepared for an evening breeze, we nonetheless jumped to take advantage of the unexpected mid-morning Northerly wind, and worked to keep a close reach across Cape Cod Bay. Shifting conditions through the day had the breeze up and down, and Pride II’s track line across the chart looked like child’s scribble.

But just when we thought we’d finished our eight hours and started sailing North toward Portsmouth, the anticipated Southerly came up; we set the stuns’l and shook off the old track like clearing an etch-a-sketch, carrying on through the night under all plain sail plus. While no sled ride, our second trial netted us an average speed of over six knots, and was good enough for Pride II’s third first-place finish in the Tall Ships Challenge series.

Post race, we anchored off Appledore Island, the southernmost of Maine’s incredible count of islands, at the invitation of Captain Kevin Wells, who is Senior Captain for the research facility there. Having sailed in the Tall Ship fleet for years, Kevin is always eager to welcome visiting vessels. The SSV Corwith Cramer and Schooner Harvey Gamage had already arrived, and Maine Maritime Academy’s Arctic Exploring Schooner Bowdin arrived shortly after we did. We made for a busy little mooring field off an island that is nearly overrun with gulls. All forays ashore are well warned that the island’s sea birds will aggressively defend their young and their turf. Some of the researchers even wear bicycle helmets adorned antennae made from tennis balls and coat hangers to keep the dive-bombing beaks at bay. Talk about angry birds!

A quiet night at anchor ended with Venus and Jupiter beaming bright at 0400 hours as we steamed for Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This classic New England Seaport offers singular difficulties in dealing with current, and so our four pre-festival day sails were hosted in the outer section of the river off New Castle, NH. On Friday, we boarded another sold-out boat for a Parade of Sail in concert with the Sloop Providence, a replica of John Paul Jones’ first command in the Continental Navy, and the Gundalow Company’s newly constructed Piscataqua, a traditional Piscataqua River cargo vessel. After the short, busy trip up the river, we secured across from the picturesque Strawberry Banke Museum and opened to thousands of eager public.

Few ports are as tide bound as Portsmouth, and so when the high slack water came at 1130 Monday morning, both Pride II and Providence were away with it. Saluting the town on our way out, we carried some sail to complete the show. Sadly, it was just for show – the Gulf of Maine was like a mill pond – a foggy, soggy mill pond all the way to Cape Sable at the West end of Nova Scotia. The last time trial was only to be sailed in Nova Scotian waters, and the breeze seemed to be waiting for us there. At 1900 Tuesday evening, we cracked on sail until everything was set and drawing, and at 2000 started our race. This time it was quite a ride. Fog alternately encircled and released us, passing squalls glimmered lightning through the vapor, and Pride II raced on in 18-22 knots of wind and a building sea, averaging 10.23 knots for the eight-hour race, at one stage even surging up to 12.3. A good showing, but the USCG Barque Eagle was also racing, and the strong favorable breeze makes her a strong contender. Fingers are crossed as we await the results.

For now, after a full sail and four gun salute entrance, we’re snug in at Halifax enjoying the expected warmth of Nova Scotian hospitality and the surprising warmth in the Nova Scotian weather.

Farewell Newport, Hello Lady ~ LADY MARYLAND, that is

9 July 2012
Pos: 41°33.1’N x 070°47.8’ W
Wx: South Force 4, 2/8 Cirrus, 3/8 Stratus
Pride of Baltimore II sailing at 6.6 knots toward the Cape Cod Canal under all Plain Sail and T’Gallant.

Pride of Baltimore II has left the hustle and bustle of a busy and successful festival in Newport, Rhode Island astern and is now at sea once more. After arriving in grand style on Thursday 5 July, we opened for tours Friday and hosted nearly 9,000 visitors to the ship in a short three days. Busy, but not too busy for the crew to experience the depth and breadth of sailing, history, and sailing history of Newport. As hometown of War of 1812 hero Oliver Hazard Perry, victor of the Battle of Lake Erie, Newport has strong 1812 connections, and those are especially poignant to me, as Perry made his mark in my home waters of Lake Erie, and I grew up in the shadow of his legend in Erie, PA. Today, Tall Ships America, co-host of the festival with Ocean State Tall Ships fittingly has their offices in Perry’s home.

Modern Newport has its mind clearly focused on modern yachting, but its history is apparent on every block, and from every era. The imposing New York Yacht Club stands proud at the harbor entrance and serves as a constant reminder of the grand era of America’s Cup Racing, and layers upon layers of historic and recent racing memorabilia can be found in the shops along America’s Cup Way and Thames Street.

Our fleet of traditional sail made it’s own show today, Parading along the East Shore of Narragansett Bay from Castle Hill to the Newport Naval Station and back to sea. Fourteen ships in all, and when many back at our end of the Parade ducked back into Newport to disembark passengers or simply call it a day, Pride II was left alone to bring up the rear. No longer bound to the Parade speed, we quit motor sailing and ghosted out the Bay with aid from an ebb tide. Then a Southerly shift had us scrambling to trim sail and Pride II was alive again, beating to windward across a calm sea as Baltimore Schooners were made to do. And as if drawn by the Chesapeake like conditions, our little sister, Lady Maryland, also two weeks out from Baltimore, appeared to the southwest.

It would be un-neighborly, we thought, not to sail a board back to the West and say hello. The breeze would hold, Pride II was fast enough to make up a bit of time, especially time spent to hail old shipmates and friends. So we tacked away from our rhumbline and for a quarter of an hour had a “gam,” a chance meeting of ships on the open water. Lady Maryland reached down from windward and we put Pride II’s fore tops’l and t’gallant aback, effectively throwing the brakes on, to let her pass under our stern and to Leeward. We exchanged salutes, then braced up and slid along with her. Eager students gazed out over her rail at us while our guest crew took a curious look at this “other” Baltimore Schooner.

Among the crews of both ships, thick with old bonds, not much was said. Not much needed to be. We’d weathered squalls and sailed through gales together, froze our way through winter maintenance and up-rig with each other. Now, on a sun-speckled afternoon with the breeze running its fingers across the water, all we needed was to share a nod and a knowing smile that told each other all those rainy nights and long cold days were worth this chance to stumble upon each other and show off our ships. In our world of near constant voyaging, that’s enough. We tacked around to get on our way and Lady Maryland sailed on to her anchorage.

Fair winds, friends, we’ll see you back home.

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

A Nimble Dance in the Shadow of a Storied Heroine

3 July 2012
Pride of Baltimore II
Pos: Alongside Rowes Wharf, Boston Harbor
Wx: NE F 1, WARM

Today marks Pride of Baltimore II’s fourth day as part of the OpSail Festivities in Boston, home of the world’s most storied square-rigger, USS Constitution. That’s right I said it, Constitution. Fans of HMS Victory, before you take up arms, hear me out. Constitution is more STORIED, because her fame doesn’t arise from a singular engagement or fleet action, but from a string of victories, all of them fought on her own, one of them against two English warships and exactly none of them as part of a line of battle. She embodies American individualism and captures the romantic allure of singularity and isolation on the open sea. Also, unlike Victory’s fame and its inextricable link to Admiral Horatio Nelson’s bold actions and heroic death at Trafalgar, Constitution’s legacy transcends her Captains, even though everyone who was anyone in the early American Navy was in command of her at some stage.

Still not convinced, Victory-ites? Well, while he didn’t sail aboard her during the War of 1812, we’d like to point out that perhaps her most dashing commander was a native of Maryland, Captain Stephen Decatur of Sinepuxent. And Nelson himself declared Decatur’s boarding of the USS Philadelphia “The most bold and daring act of the age.”

And in the presence of this Naval Legend and heroine of 1812, what better thing to do than show off the qualities of Pride II in concert with her sister Privateer Lynx in a series of “Battle Sails.” These mock-engagements, long a staple among the Traditional Sailing ships of the West Coast, have become relatively frequent between Lynx and Pride II in the last two years. The format is simple – board a ship full of passengers each, sail out to designated area, and spend the next hour or so desperately trying to out maneuver each other while blasting away blank rounds from your replica guns, all in the name of fun and living history.

All joking aside, it is an excellent opportunity for people to experience a piece of maritime heritage, to be in the thick of things, feeling and hearing the concussive and near deafening reports of the armaments, waiting through the long anticipation as shots are lined up for the precise moment, tasting the black powder smoke as it lingers between the ships. And for the crews, a chance to exercise their ships figuratively and literally – feinting and dodging these terrifically nimble schooners around each other through nearly countless tacks and wares. Aboard Pride II, a chance to use the guns, which often times are just simply in the way while we sail the living snot out of the ship. The fact that traffic and security concerns have required the whole engagement to take place in a 350 yard by 250 yard box mean that maneuvers are quick and constant.

Of course, there is the burning question each time – “Who won?” Everybody. Nobody. Both Ships. Choosing a winner for a battle sail would be like choosing a winner for a game of Frisbee. Or picking one swimmer out of a synchronized swimming team. Or a single acrobat at Cirque du Soleil. You’re getting my point; it’s a dance, a show, an exhibition. The passengers win for witnessing it, the crews win for getting to put their ships through their paces, Boston wins because half the harbor can see the action. And, if I may wax a bit patriotic on this Independence Eve, America wins, for having such as rich history of strong, proud ships such as Chasseur, Lynx, Pride II and Constitution and such daring and courageous Captains as Stephen Decatur, Issac Hull, Charles Stewart, and of course, Thomas Boyle, who celebrated his 237th birthday just five days ago.

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