Captain's Log – Race 3: Tawas Point toward Bois Blanc Island

Date: July 26, 2016

Position: Lake Michigan, approaching Chicago

After Tall Ship Celebration: Bay City in Bay City, MI, the ships participated in the Lake Huron Race, the third of five races in the Tall Ships Challenge race series. The course started near Tawas Point at the northern shore of the entrance to Saginaw Bay, went up halfway around the “mitten” of Michigan, to the finish line north of Bois Blanc Island. The race featured wind speeds ranging from nearly nothing to 20 knots, and featured one 180 degree windshift and another that was around 90 degrees.

The key in races like this is to make a plan and follow it – the tricky part is having a sense of when the wind is going to shift, and where, and how to position yourself so that you have not sailed excess distance to get to the right spot when the shift happens. These races are often decided by a matter of minutes, so an ill-timed tack, gybe, or even small course change can make a large difference.

The plan was for us to get north as quickly as possible, and hug the shore closely after dark. Looking at a chart of the race course, your response might well be “well- duh.” The racecourse goes north, after all, and hugging the coast means sailing less distance as you curve around the top of Michigan. The tricky part was the wind direction at the start, which was NNE, shifting steadily to the NE and then E. When sailing an upwind leg, if there is to be a persistent (only one direction, not shifting back and forth from right to left) shift like that, you have to sail in the direction it shifts; this means sailing east instead of north. Then you must pick the exact right moment to tack, so that you have neither sailed too far east and needlessly added distance, or tacked to soon, letting your competitors “inside the shift”- that is, once everyone tacks and you are all being steadily lifted, they sail the inside of the curve. Less distance, again.

Pride timed this extremely well. As a result, we were able to get inshore at night, where we were helped by another phenomenon I was counting on: the night land breeze. Land temperatures vary much more than those over water, so during the day, the hot air over land rises, creating a vacuum, and the cool air over the water rushes in to fill the gap – a “sea breeze.” At night, the opposite can happen – the land cools down, the water remains more or less the same, and so the cool air over land rushes seaward (erm, lakeward) in what is called a “land breeze” or sometimes a “drainage breeze.” This is what really made the difference in the race, for us. We were right up against the land, sometimes only a half mile or so offshore, and the land breeze, reinforced by the gradient wind direction we had earlier, built to near 20 knots. We sailed for several hours at between 9 and 10 knots, while our competitors stayed further offshore and were only doing about half that speed for a good while.

That meant that when the race got tricky again the next day, as it inevitably did, we had a substantial lead, possibly as much as 35 miles. We finished the race in light winds from astern, at about midday; the course took us about 25 hours.

We then had some time to kill, so we stopped for a day at Mackinac Island. After that, we sailed to Boyne City, Michigan, where we were hosted for a lakeside day of rest and fun (most of the fun was in playing with boats – big surprise) by the Kidd family, who have been involved with both Pride of Baltimore and Pride of Baltimore II since 1981, and who continue a long tradition of warm welcome and incredible hospitality to ship and crew.

We are now motoring down Lake Michigan in a completely flat calm, approaching Chicago.

Signed,
Captain Jordan Smith

Captain's Log – Race 2: Fairport Harbor toward the Pelee Passage

Date: Saturday, July 16, 2016

Position: Bay City, Michigan

We started the Lake Erie Race off Fairport Harbor at 10 am on Monday morning. The forecast was challenging for all – a brief period of wind from the SW, followed by a flat calm, a 180 degree windshift, and then a building wind from the NE in the evening.

Pride and Denis Sullivan hit the line soonest, with them perhaps a bit sooner, but with Pride much closer to full speed. We quickly shot into the lead. Then things began to get challenging. The schooner When and If is racing this year- a beautiful, slim, weatherly yacht constructed for George Patton just before World War II. As the wind lightened, they began to gain. Pride is not often in the position of hearing a competitor’s bow wave get louder and louder; they slowly caught up in spite of our best efforts. The wind was hauling forward and getting lighter all the time. With the last of our momentum, we were able to squeeze up towards them until they were about 60 feet to windward and just behind. We were aided at this point by a phenomenon which few non-racers know about, but which I was counting on. A vessel’s wind shadow (the disturbance caused by her sails) actually extends quite a way to windward as well as behind and to leeward. Pride was able to get close enough, and When and If‘s genoa began to luff just as they were about to roll past. They dropped behind and to leeward. Then the wind completely died. Rather than drift in circles for hours, When and If decided to save their sanity and drop out of the race. I expect that Pride will have quite a challenge on her hands dealing with them in the future.

The wind eventually filled in from the NE. We were able to cross the finish line first, but I believe we lost to Niagara on corrected time; they have a great many more square sails than we do, and the majority of the course was sailed downwind, a very fast point of sail for them. Over the course of a multi race series, these things have a way of evening out. By the time 6 races have been sailed, we will have had such a variety of conditions so that the best all-around boat will be identified.

After motoring though the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, and the St. Clair River, we got under sail again in the southern extremity of Lake Huron. We then sailed up around the “thumb” of Michigan and into Saginaw Bay, arriving in Bay City on Wednesday. The Parade of Sail into Bay City was on Thursday and it was mildly hair raising. The Saginaw River entrance channel is quite narrow, and at times, we had winds blowing across the channel at 25 to 30 knots. Niagara and El Galeon Andalucia, having even more windage than we do, chose to wait for calmer conditions before attempting the river ascent. We went ahead on schedule, but I had to wait for all traffic to clear the worst reach of the channel so I could run it at higher speed.

Bay City, as always, has been a well organized and gracious host. Next up is the Lake Huron race, set to begin on Monday.

Signed,

Captain Jordan Smith

Captain's Log – My compliments to all!

Date: Friday, July 08, 2016

Position: Fairport Harbor, OH

Pride of Baltimore II is among several traditional sailing vessels docked in the small, proud Ohio port of Fairport Harbor. We all arrived yesterday and executed a formal parade of sail yesterday evening. With virtually no wind at all, it was possible for most of the vessels to show off their significant and varied sail profiles. Several vessels were able to take local citizens aboard for the parade of sail. The Mayor of Fairport Harbor was aboard Pride, a chance that suddenly became available at the very last minute due to the team of organizers having all the details “in hand.” Everyone who was aboard Pride for the parade of sail commented on the pleasant conditions of Lake Erie and the unique opportunity to see the crew’s intense process of setting sail and saluting the town folk on shore by cannon.

I have “signed off” the ship and Captain Jordan Smith is now fully in command. I take a happy step back to the position of supporting captain and Captain Smith takes the happy step forward to total and individual command of the vessel he has admired for over two decades. As I prepared to step back, I took a moment to compliment this crew’s accomplishments and clarify the areas that still need development.

I cannot think of a time when a partner captain was not around to become familiar with the ship through the winter or at least from part of the previous sailing season. Not only was there no winter maintenance crew, due to the winter maintenance accomplished the previous winter, and the short, local, minimum wear-and-tear sailing season we had in Baltimore last year, but there was no partner captain from the last sailing season to provide additional wintertime leadership and continuity to the care and planning of the ship. The crew who came aboard this March were challenged by two captains, one of which was completely new to the ship, her culture, and her mission, on top of a bunch of deferred maintenance that ordinarily would have been at least partly attended to during the winter.

Everyone has come very far this season. The deferred maintenance has been caught up; the ship looks good! The overall coordination of seamanship and mission execution is now pretty much up to par. The “normal” baseline of standards and aspirations of ship care and mission performance have now been reached. But there are always areas to improve. The crew can always learn more and further develop their seamanship knowledge and skills – making such efforts to improve is good for their interests to sail on other vessels as well make their lives aboard Pride easier. Now that I have taken this step back, Captain Smith can fully bring his special insights from his personal background to the benefit of the ship and her mission.

My compliments to all!

Signed,

Captain Jan C. Miles

Captain's Log – Lock #1, Welland Canal

Date: Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Time 0800 EDT

Position : Lock #1 “tie-up” wall, Welland Canal

Pride is again in the company of Draken, the replica 9th century Viking Longboat; both vessels are awaiting permission to proceed.

The race ended early for Draken yesterday around 1230 PM as yesterday’s light winds were not helpful for her to finish the race before having to fulfill her timing with the pilots. Pride carried on and finished the race around 1640 and then sailed through the night to enter the Welland Canal this morning. Word is that both vessels will be transiting together. Once through the canal, Draken will pull to the side and await her next move while Pride is slated to continue on into Lake Erie and commence the 100-odd nautical miles toward Fairport Harbor, Ohio.

Signed,

Captain Jan C. Miles

Captain's Log – Race 1: PRIDE II, DRAKEN, and the "Millennium of Difference Race"

Date: Monday, July 4th, 2016 – American Independence Day

Time: 0900 EDT

Position: Western Lake Ontario 14 nautical miles northeast of Fort Niagara, New York, at the mouth of the Niagara River

Pride of Baltimore II is part of a “Millennium of Difference Race” (my personal description): two sailing vessels of the greatest difference of time of origin in the same race. This is the first of five Tall Ships Challenge® Great Lakes 2016 races. Two vessels are competing: the 9th-century-era Viking longboat, Draken, and the early 19th-century American Baltimore Clipper, Pride of Baltimore II — only a thousand years apart in sailing development. I wonder if this could be a record for spread of time between vessel origins in the tall ships races around the world. It surely is for such races here in North America.

Right now, the 19th-century Baltimore Clipper is demonstrating what it takes to be able to go to windward (the direction upwind, or toward where the wind is coming from) rather effectively. The Viking longboat is doing impressively well sailing windward with her single big square sail. I would guess that, on average, she is 20 degrees less weatherly and about a full knot and a half slower. Earlier in the race, the wind was favorable for heading to the first mark, meaning there was no need for Pride to go to windward. Draken was still slower, but not by much. When the wind went right aft, Pride had to reach away from the rhumb line course to the mark to keep blanketing wind her fore and aft sails. Draken merely shifted her single yard to square.

This race may not see its intended/desired end. Draken is classified by her official papers from her flag state of Norway as a “commercial.”  As a visiting foreign-flag commercial vessel, the United States requires her to take a pilot when in the Great Lakes. Draken’s pilot must live aboard the same way as the crew does. The great, long open boat has a low headroom tent for a cabin. This tent is crowded with off-watch crew such that one cannot even change garments while in the tent. Draken’s crew must be fully prepared to live as any wilderness or remote/extreme expeditionary adventurer. None of the typically appreciated comforts of a well-found sailing vessel exist, meaning no “inside” comfort and shelter from direct exposure to the elements, no personal bunk with convenient personal storage space, and no sheltered eating or lounging or get-together area. Their only choice is lying horizontal, jammed close to others inside the tent, or being exposed to the elements and eating like a camper. The pilots are a bit taken aback by this.

Fortunately, the pilot on board for this race is game, up to a point. The race’s time limit is based on the need to change pilots 24 hours after the first pilot boarded Draken. That was 1600 hours EDT yesterday. That debarking location is to be the entrance to the Welland Canal at 4 PM today.

Lake wind has been around 5 knots or less all night long. The first race leg was 15 nautical miles eastward along the north shore of Lake Ontario. Pride rounded first at 0144 hours this morning; Draken about an hour and a half later — not a lot of difference between 1,000 years of marine evolution, at least from the perspective of reaching or running winds (winds from the side or behind). The wind patterns have meant sailing as close to the wind as possible since rounding the mark. As I write this, Draken is some 13 nautical miles behind us, going a lot slower, and not pointing as close to the wind. Going really close to windward using 5 knots of wind strength is not an easy thing to do for any vessel. Typically, in weak wind, a sail vessel must steer wider than with stronger winds. Pride has all of her go-to-windward sails up, some eight sails that fill up the sky above deck to 100 feet above her sparred length of 157 feet. Draken has the one sail for her 114 feet of very finely shaped longboat hull. In stronger winds, she must fly, especially when not having to worry about getting to windward. During the first leg she could go directly toward the mark with the wind abaft the beam. Pride could too, up to the point when the wind went directly behind, then she had to veer away from the direct route and create a strategic sailing plan for jibing her way to the mark. Pride had to sail more miles than for downwind Draken. Hence, the actual time difference between both vessels passing that mark was quite close. Now that the wind is ahead, both vessels must tack their way toward the finish unless the wind changes or time runs out. Pride’s more up-to-date sail plan and hull form give her the edge over Draken. But with a stronger and more favorable wind, we are certain that Draken would lead the way ahead of Pride.

Signed,

Captain Jan C. Miles

Captain's Log – PRIDE II in Toronto

Date: July 2, 2016

Position: Toronto Harbor

The weather is gorgeous! Dry, partly cloudy with wind from the northwest: a classic post cold front and new high-pressure onset phenomenon.

The Toronto Harbor is a natural phenomenon that suggests high-end resort planning.

Yacht clubs, parks with beaches, and some wonderfully exotic small residences (that were squatter homes first) make up a barrier of islands that create the harbor.

On the mainland is the city. Rising up vertically in a modern 21st century city center way, it also has a re-purposed waterfront right on the edge of Lake Ontario. What used to be 20th century industrial and commercial shipping warehouses and manufacturers has turned into residential high rises with lots of local community parks interspersed; the architecture is eclectic and avant-garde.

The Tall Ship Festival is a periodically recurring event. The stars are vessels from far-off waters brought to the Great Lakes for the passionate enthusiasm of the public. This year, the stars include the replica 9th century Norwegian Viking Longboat, Draken Harald Hårfagre, and the replica 16th century Spanish Galleon, El Galeon. They join the replica 18th century American Baltimore Clipper, Pride of Baltimore II.

The local brigantines of Toronto and Kingston, St. Lawrence II, Playfair and Pathfinder, are the most wonderfully conceived youth training vessels in the world – they are out racing each other in the harbor as I write this log. Their crew, made up of high school students, sail and perform maintenance. Great little ship’s they are; very seaworthy and sea-kindly. They have been around since the 1950 and I don’t understand why they have not inspired more water-based youth development interests. Teamwork and collaboration are what make these little ships sail so well – there is responsibility for everyone aboard. Pride of Baltimore II has experienced a few graduates of these little ships as short term volunteers. They are great and hard working shipmates; they completely understand the command, control, and nature of complicated sailing vessels, as well the need for pro-active cleanliness, tidiness, maintenance, and the huge responsibility for looking out for one another’s safety. By the time these trainees reach their 20s, having started around the age of 14, they are great contributors to any vessel they get aboard.

Tomorrow the festival ends in a crescendo Parade of Sail. The first Tall Ships Challenge Great Lakes 2016 race will begin in the evening. It is a 60-mile race set up to zig-zag down Lake Ontario and finish near the south shore in time for the participants to make their way to the Welland Canal. Once there, Pride will enter into another lock system that helps vessels “climb” nearly 300 feet over the Niagara Escarpment and into Lake Erie.

Signed,

Captain Jan C. Miles