SQUALLY START, ROUNDING THE BUOYS, AND ONE LAKE DOWN

Tuesday, 25 June, 2013

Pos: At anchor in 27 feet of water off Jordan Harbor, Ontario
Wx: SW F 2-3, Overcast with light rain
Pride of Baltimore II cooling her heels, her crew cooling their hands.

Ahead of schedule for her appearance in Port Dalhousie, Ontario, Pride of Baltimore II is once more swinging on her Port Bower, and once more sharing a Canadian anchorage with her sister Privateer Lynx. With Queen Elizabeth’s Way, one of Ontario’s major thoroughfares, running along the shore, this anchorage isn’t quite as quiet as La Malbaie, but we’re getting accustomed to the steady thrum of highway noise.

In case you’re starting to think all this anchoring makes Pride II’s port hook the most exercised thing on the ship, allow me to detail the recent schedule the ship and crew have had. After a jam packed festival in Toronto where our 6,657 visitors were boarding and marveling at the ship right up until an hour before departure, we got underway and immediately assembled to take up our station in a five-mile parade of sail through Toronto Harbor. Once finished, we were off to the races, literally, along with the Norwegian Ship Sorlandet, the Barkentine Peacemaker, and the Schooners Lynx and Unicorn.

At 1930 Sunday evening, the first race of the 2013 Great Lakes Tall Ships Challenge started just east of Toronto. Pride II is always eager for the challenge of maximizing performance against the world’s finest traditional vessels, but on Sunday we might have been even more primed – five of us had seen a disappointing Orioles loss live at Rodgers Center on Saturday, and just as we started the parade we heard that the O’s had lost 9-0 to the Blue Jays. It was up to us to keep Baltimore proud this weekend.

All our pre-start strategies were literally rained on by squall that swept out from the heat of Toronto. With a perfect bead on the start line and the timing worked out to cross it right at the gun, we had to shorten sail for the squall, and lagged behind our timing in the lull that followed. The seven minute delay still had us across eight minutes before anyone else in the fleet. We cracked on our kites – the stuns’ls and t’gallant – and bore off toward the first mark off Pickering, Ontario.

Typically, Tall Ships races follow the rhumb line, the shortest distance between two ports. This time, however, the fleet was splitting up for their next port appearances, the overall distance to either port was less than 30 nautical miles, and our appearances were five days away. So, to jazz things up, Tall Ships America sent us around the buoys. The first leg was 14 miles dead down wind, and the next 38 miles nearly dead to weather, and the final mile a close reach.

With her nose first over the start line, Pride II established a lead she never lost. After 13 hours 20 minutes and 3 seconds, we finished ahead of the rest of the fleet. And we need to if there’s any hope of winning. Under the rating system used for Tall Ships Races, Pride II has the least favorable time correction factor in the fleet, and “owes” time to all the other ships.

After finishing a race that included ten sail changes, two wares and eight tacks in less than 14 hours, we stripped Pride II down to easy sail and took communications from the rest of the fleet. Lynx crossed around 1625, and we sailed to the anchorage with her. With the race over it was time for the next phase – the 2013 Great Lakes Five Lake Swim Call Challenge! Having missed Lake Ontario in 2011, we wasted no time washing the sweat and grime of the race off of us. One lake down, four to go!

All best,

Captain Jamie Trost and the Fresh Water Cleansed Crew of Pride of Baltimore II

THE RIVER TOOK US TO IT

Tuesday, 18 June, 2013

Pos: 43 45.45’N x 077 48.38’W
Wx: ENE F 2-3, Overcast with light rain
Pride of Baltimore II under all plain sail and t’gallant making 3-5 knots

After ten days in the mighty St. Lawrence River, and a week in the impossibly picturesque Thousand Islands region, Pride of Baltimore II has reached the open expanse of her first Great Lake in 2013. For the past week, Pride II has been engulfed in the craggy beauty, impressive architecture, and endless array of water craft this region boasts. From a logistic stop in charming Clayton – home to the elaborate small craft collection of the Antique Boat Museum – to a busy festival in Brockville, or “Brock-Vegas,” the region’s largest city, Pride II has seen a good bit of what the Thousand Islands have to offer.

In our stay, we have felt both warmly welcomed and quite at home. Summer time in this region is firmly guided by what Ratty said to Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s beloved classic, The Wind in the Willows, “there is NOTHING — absolute nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” That’s a philosophy we at Pride II can jump into with both feet. From classic runabouts seemingly soaked in varnish, to the elegant St. Lawrence River rowing skiff, to stand-up paddle boards, the St. Lawrence teems with vessels. Pride II was thrilled to be one of the 11 Tall Ships adding deep sea flair to the stage in both Clayton and Brockville.

But “The River” is behind us now. So is half of Lake Ontario, thanks to an uncharacteristic northeast breeze we’ve been riding since last night. At 2016, we cleared the end of the St. Lawrence and were able to take a slant on the breeze that had been teasing us from dead astern through the confined afternoon of river navigation. By sunset, we’d cracked on everything but the stuns’l and were surging along at eight knots, drawn westward by a setting first quarter moon. A brace of wares had us around the shallows of Psyche Shoal and on the rhumb line for Toronto, our next port and home to Ontario’s, indeed Canada’s, largest Tall Ship Festival this year.

What a change it promises! In a few short days, Pride II will sail from the sleepy St. Lawrence to the biggest city on the Great Lakes. It’s precisely this kind of variety that draws so many of us to life as sailors. Just as each passage, even on familiar waters, holds the promise of different weather, each visit to a port, even a familiar one, is also different, a new adventure. In between, we are content aboard the snug and known comforts of Pride II, our own little village on the water, where we each depend upon
each other and all depend on the ship, no matter what weather may come or ports await.

All best,

Captain Jamie Trost and the Great Laking crew of Pride of Baltimore II

KEEPING CURRENT

Monday, 10 June, 2013

Pos:LongueilAnchorageNumber One,PortofMontreal

Wx: ENE F 1, 7/8ths stratus

Pride of Baltimore II at anchor in 40 feet of river on two shots of chain

Anchored in the considerable current of the St. Lawrence River, Pride of Baltimore II awaits a routine inspection by the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority, the corporation which governs the waterway and the seven locks connecting Montreal to Lake Ontario – 159 nautical miles horizontally and 236 feet vertically. Without these locks, the rocky slough of the Lachine Rapids would mark the end of the line for Pride II. In fact, it was these very rapids that kept the vast British Navy out of the Great Lakes in 1812, putting England and America on equally unequipped footing for the coming conflicts on Lake Ontario and, of course, the significant US victory on Lake Erie.

Setting aside the impassable Lachine, getting a sailing ship as far as Montrealin 1812 would have been an excruciating affair. Even today it is no simple task, and for the 20 hours or so before we anchored in small hours of this morning, Pride II was treading narrow channels along pastoral scenes, bustling factories, and scores of church spires. For all that way, she stemmed a steady current, a river current – a sure sign we’d bid adieu to the sea and were truly inland.

Below Quebec City on Saturday, however, the river proved itself a long reaching tendril of the ocean. Under frequent showers and through thick fog, strong Northeast breezes conflicted with ebbing tides and honed the waters of the St. Lawrence to sharpness. Pride II managed seven hours of pure sailing up the river in rollicking conditions, from l’Ile aux Lievres until the fittingly named Chenal des Grands Volliers – the Channel of Tall Ships. It wasn’t just sailing – still ocean owned, the lower St. Lawrence runs a decent flood. We hitched a ride, making over ten knots for a stretch under fore tops’l, stays’l, and fores’l.

But the St. Lawrence flood is nothing when compared to its ebb, and by midnight Sunday we were slogging against its full strength off Quebec, eagerly trying to pinpoint the right time to arrive at the river’s most treacherous spot, the Richelieu Rapides. As ruthless as the 17th century French Cardinal who shares their name, the Rapides are almost never still, feature a maximum ebb current of eight knots, and are marked by drying rocks on either side of the narrow channel that comprises them. Passing through in a moment of relative calm is, in a word, vital.

For all the numerous navigation tools and technology Pride II possesses, one book towered high for negotiating these disobedient, mercurial waters of the St. Lawrence – The Atlas of Tidal currents of the St. Lawrence Estuary from Cap de Bon-Desir to Trois-Rivieres. Published by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 1997, this reference divides the most challenging section of river into nine digestible geographic zones, and dissects the movement of water within each of them into hourly bytes. Bold, primary colors show strength and nearly cartoonish arrows mark the racing ebbs, the driving floods and the swirling eddies. It is a marvelously simple book to use, and allowed Pride II to exploit both a detour through Chenal du Sud and a bolstering flood along the southern shore. For 24 hours, it was indispensable for navigation.

Even now, in my mind, it serves as an indelible reminder that simple tools are often best. That is, after all, why we sail these Grand Volliers, isn’t it?

All best,

Captain Jamie Trost and the crew of Pride of Baltimore II 

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG RIVER

Friday, 7 June, 2013

Pos: 49 18.4’N x 065 54.7’W

Wx: ENE F 1, 2/8ths cirrus, seas flat

Pride of Baltimore II: motoring?!? (Alas, it’s true)

The St. Lawrence River is a mill pond this morning. Maybe only for this 
morning, as strong, favorable breezes are forecast to fill later, but for 
now there’s scarcely a ripple and no remnant of yesterday’s heaping sea. 
We’re also bucking a two-knot current – that much moving water will subdue 
nearly any left over sea. Last night, Pride of Baltimore II officially entered the St. Lawrence River, as defined in the Royal Proclamation of 1763. From a line between Cape des Rosiers and Pointe de l’Ouest on Anticosti Island, the river stretches 662  nautical miles to Cape Vincent and Lake Ontario. Pride II’s current latitude is roughly as far north as she’s been in seven years. Shortly, we’ll pass sixty-six degrees west longitude, the first Call-in Point (CIP) for Escoumins Traffic.

For the next 600 miles or so, we’ll be part of some such vessel traffic service, reporting at dozens of such CIPs while negotiating intense currents, massive passing ships, and seven tall locks until we reach Lake Ontario. The backdrop will be some of the continent’s most pleasant scenery  – foggy mountains steep against the shore, rolling farm lands, the imposing Citadel of Quebec, the urban chic of Montreal, the quaint summertime lake cottages of Ontario and New York, and the elaborate castles of the rocky Thousand Islands.

To start this leg of the passage, we escaped La Malbaie just after lunch yesterday. True to form, the bay tried to keep us ensnared. As we started heaving up the anchor the breeze came in force five east-northeast. Pinned on a lee shore, the crew raced through evolutions to get Pride II clawing her way back to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. With the mains’l to keep her head toward the weather, we walked the narrow path of breaking the anchor and backing the jib simultaneously in order to cast the ship onto port tack and toward the Gulf. Then a fury of setting fores’l, then stays’l while the watch working the anchor catted and fished the hook, securing it for sea, and Pride II happily defying the bay’s entrapments under her four lowers.  Once clear of the outer reaches, we tacked to starboard and set a reefed foretops’l to help drive her along. Then, as suddenly as it sprang up, the embaying breeze faded as we passed La Malbaie’s northern limit at Pointe Ste Pierre. We’d escaped, but were left with curse of motoring.

As curses go, it’s not that bad. After 40 hours of waiting for weather to subside, we certainly aren’t going to dawdle in the outer river, waiting for the next gale to come bowling along. At any rate, the sky seemed to celebrate our escape from La Malbaie. Last night Aurora Borealis consumed the northern heavens, flashing and stretching up from the horizon far enough to obscure Polaris and even the Big Dipper in their spectacle. Dreamlike and tireless, they flaunted throughout the short, near-summer night, reveling in the flawlessly clear sky, fading only when the orange hint of dawn upstaged them.

All best,

Captain Jamie Trost and the finally underway again crew of Pride of 
Baltimore II

WAITING FOR (THE WX TO SETTLE DOWN IN THE STRAIGHT OF) HONGUEDO

Wednesday, 5 June, 2013

Pos: 48 36.4 N x 064 15.9 W
Wx: NNW F 4, gusting 6, 6/8ths cumulus, scattered showers
Pride of Baltimore II at anchor in 30 feet of water

The current weather around Gaspe is relentless: 20-30 from the West to North West, violent seas six to nine feet, nothing to go charging into. The worst of it is in the Strait of Honguedo, between mainland Quebec and Anticosti Island, precisely in our route. Pride of Baltimore II is waiting it out in La Malbaie, Quebec along with her sister, Lynx. I imagine this is the first time two Baltimore Clippers have shared this anchorage, perhaps the first time one has ever anchored here. In any case, it’s probably the first time in 200 years.

La Malbaie is French for Bad Bay, but we can’t find a single fault with it. Aside from its convenient location within easy striking distance of the St. Lawrence River mouth, the surrounding shoreline is nothing short of stunning. In the long stretch of northern afternoon yesterday, we finally started motoring after the wind faded and shifted for the 10th time, and set off for La Malbaie through the narrow passage between Perce Rocher and Ile de Bonaventure. Grumpy as we might have been about the weather, this diversion was worth every moment of frustration.

Ile de Bonaventure stands a mile and a half off the town of Perce, Quebec. Sheer red cliffs rise like castle walls from the gulf to mark the island. A few houses speckle a grassy streak near the west face and tall pines crown the island’s cap. As we approached, thin, cool sunlight streaked through a cloud shot sky to gleam against the rock walls. On the near shore, the ragged rock arch of Perce Rocher glowed a near purple in the shade. Beyond, the town of Perce crammed itself into the gaps and hollows of ragged coastal mountains. As we rounded the corner into La Malbaie itself, farms and roads climbed rolling hills into the interior of the Gaspisie. The sunset offered incredible drama. The scene, taken whole, was spellbinding. In myths or storybooks, our schooner might be waylaid here for centuries, all our obligations, adventures, and memories dissolved into the greens, blues, and soft purples of the land and seascapes.

In reality, however, we’re due into Clayton, New York in a week to clear US customs, re-supply the ship, and handle a dozen other logistic details before launching into the twelve Tall Ship festivals that fill the summer of 2013. We’re wind bound, not spellbound. But if the wind doesn’t let up, we’ll continue to enjoy staring at this captivating scenery.

All best,

Captain Jamie Trost and the fairly mesmerized crew of Pride of Baltimore II

WHIRLY BIRDS

Tuesday, 4 June, 2013

Pos: 48 14.0’N x 064 13.6’W
Wx: Your guess is as good as mine, we’ve seen just about everything in the last 12 hours
Sail Plan: Changes almost minute to minute, but currently four lowers and fore tops’l

This weather is for the birds, literally. Since a brief rain squall at 0300, Pride of Baltimore II has been host to an ever increasing population of finches. Probably blown out to sea in the fresh to strong southwest breeze we sailed under, they found our hundred feet of deck as a refuge in an  otherwise inhospitable salt water world – so we’ve got that much in common.  In the 12 or so hours since then, they have frolicked, fought, and occasionally agreed to be held by some of us sailors. Too far from shore to  make it back to land, they occasionally dare a sortie, but usually never get  out of sight before struggling back to the shrouds, the rail, or the  transom. They’ve cleaned us out of bugs, and don’t seem too fond of crackers, so some trial and error is ongoing to keep them fed.

They’re likely pretty dizzy by now, as the Gulf of St. Lawrence has offered a stunning series of wind shifts, all associated with a weak low pressure that is almost directly overhead. There are forecasts that can chill a sailor’s bones, and ones that can make a seafaring heart leap for joy, but none can so infuriate as the dreaded “variable winds 10-20 knots.” That’s what Pride II – and our sister privateer, Lynx, about three miles to the east of us – have been dealing with since pre-dawn. After a busy weekend in Miramichi, where nearly 7,000 visitors stepped over the rail, the four American vessels (the two privateers, along with Unicorn and Peacemaker) all departed together in a miniature parade of sail. Once out the river, we took advantage of a favorable breeze and were quickly on our way toward Cape Gaspe and the entrance to the St. Lawrence River.

Now we are spinning circles at the mouth of Chaleur Bay. There’s no rush to turn the corner at Gaspe, as the forecasts for tonight and tomorrow up there are for 20-30 knots out of the west and an associated two to three meter sea. So Pride II is chasing the breeze, and between the sometimes frantic evolutions required by the shifting winds, the crew are chasing finches around the deck, occasionally getting one to settle in their hand, or even, as happened to Chief Mate Jill Hughes, find one hungry enough to pick the remnants of lunch out of their teeth.

All best,

Captain Jamie Trost and the Birdmen and Birdwomen of Pride of Baltimore II