Captain's Log – A Change in Command and the Feats of Strength

Date: August 24, 2016

It’s a little odd writing a log entry from a library one thousand miles away from the ship. I have gone home for a bit, and the next time I will see Pride, she will be home too. Captain Jan Miles has taken over for me (we split the time as close to down the middle as we could, rotating on and off every two months or so, circumstances permitting) and will retrace the steps we made through the Great Lakes and back to salt water, and thence home to Baltimore. The way it worked out was satisfying, geographically – I took over in the Great Lakes, and my mission was to keep going west until there was no more lake (Duluth, MN) and then go home.

To get to Duluth from Green Bay involved some of the most entertaining sailing of the trip. We had a good fast sail across Lake Michigan and then, due to confined space, motored up the St. Mary’s River to the Soo Locks in Sault St. Marie, which lift you the 20 feet or so required to enter Lake Superior.

Lake Superior is the most northerly, the deepest, the coldest, and the biggest of the lakes. They call her “Mother Superior” up there, with all the forbidding, Catholic school, whack-you-with-a-ruler associations the nickname implies. Though it was calm when we entered the lake, the wind soon built to over 20 knots and the waves along with it, fortunately from astern. Pride had an engagement in Madeline Island and we had to slow down to avoid getting tangled up in the Apostle Islands in the middle of the night; our speed made us early.

After a night in Bayfield and a day anchored off Madeline Island, we had a R&R day anchored off one of the outer islands of the Apostles. Then, we motored the last 45 miles or so to Superior, Wisconsin, in a flat calm, to stay for a couple of days with our friends at Loon’s Foot Marina. The marina is a repurposed ore dock with a huge concrete structure running a good quarter mile along it – it was formerly used by trains to load lake freighters. Now, its interior is a repository for all kinds of interesting stuff, marine and otherwise, in varying stages of disassembly. I love places like that.

After that, it was off to Duluth, the essence of which Captain Miles has covered in his recent log entry. But, I do have one story that wasn’t covered there. Throughout the ports we have visited, each ship has hosted a party for the other ships. Most of the parties have a theme, and most of the themes are inside jokes. This time, Pride hosted, and the theme was one that many people will get: Festivus in August. If you know it, great. If you don’t, Google it. One of the Festivus traditions is “the feats of strength.” I chose, much on the spur of the moment, to have the feat of strength be to pin me to the deck in a wrestling match. Then I forgot about it. Our second mate, Becca Rusk, did not forget about it.

Another pop culture reference is apt, here: in the first Jurassic Park movie, the Big Game Hunter creeps into the velociraptor paddock to tranquilize one. He’s using all his big game hunter skills, and thinks he has it totally wired. He hears a noise, looks off to one side, and sees, far too late, that he was the prey, not the predator. He has about enough time to say, resignedly and admiringly, “……..clever girl…..” before he is pounced on and eaten.

This was like that. I was in the middle of a conversation about an hour later, and six of them tackled me. It took them at least 10 minutes to finish the job, though. Thus ended my first tour of duty on Pride of Baltimore II. Majesty and pageantry and adventure don’t exist without foolishness, I find.

Signed,

Captain Jordan Smith

 

Captain's Log – Eastward on Lake Superior

Date: Tuesday, August 23, 2016; 1630 hours EDT
Position: Approaching Marquette, Michigan, under power; expect to be moored around 7 PM

I have been back aboard since Saturday having assumed command of Pride of Baltimore II from Captain Jordan Smith who is now home and ready to provide support to ship and staff, while also taking some personal time, before returning to relieve me later this season in Baltimore.

There were 15 separate day sails in Duluth spread over four days (Thursday through Sunday). Jordan handled seven of them and I handled eight of them. Monday was the start of the 5th and last Tall Ships America Great Lakes Challenge Race of 2016 (Monday/Tuesday). We do not know the results of this race except that we managed Pride over the finish line first, near 0700 this morning after about 19 hours of racing (there is a handicap). Other competitors did magnificent jobs sailing their vessels really well. All participants will be awaiting results from Tall Ships America.

It was quite a rollicking sail eastward on Lake Superior. Wind from south and southwest at 10-15-20+ knots made for some very fast sailing. Pride was speeding along at 8-9-10 and even 11 knots at full sail, including the top-gallant sail; for a while, even the studding sail. All through the very dark Monday evening with no moon, Pride surged along at 10-15 degrees of heel. There was quite a bit of “ahh” when the half moon came out in the middle of the night; before that we could not see the sails very easily. After moonrise it was quite feasible to see the sails and therefore, keep an eye on sail trim. Not much to worry about though – wind direction was consistent enough to not require fiddling with sail trim, but the wind was changeable enough to keep us wondering and looking.

After crossing the finish line just after 0700 Central time this morning (start was noon Central time on Monday), crew struck and stowed the “kites” and square-foretopsail. With four lowers (main, fore, staysail & jib) Pride sailed beyond the finish line at Copper Harbor, Michigan, located on the outer north side of the Keweenaw Peninsula, around the east end and southward toward Marquette.

We are going to be arriving early to the festival in Marquette, scheduled to start this next Friday and meant to last through the weekend. Being early is a great opportunity for some maintenance on the ship. She looks really good! But can always use more. The varnish rail cap is in wonderful shape!! So our attentions will be towards other areas of paint and cosmetic coverings along with coming-due cyclical maintenance like oil changes. And always, being a sailing vessel, there are rig maintenance responsibilities. There will also be crew changes. Some of the hands that started in Baltimore back in early March are heading off to adventures beyond Pride. Replacement crew are coming aboard, so there will be some ship familiarization training going on as well. There have been planned events every weekend since late June this summer; thus far it has been eight weekends back to back. So, too, will be the next four weekends, until mid-September. Then we will rush home to Baltimore with all speed for Maryland Fleet Week and the commissioning of the first 21st-century “stealth” destroyer USS Zumwalt.

The Star-Spangled Sailing Ambassador of Baltimore & Maryland has not been idle!

Signed,
Captain Jan C. Miles

Captain's Log – PRIDE in Green Bay, WI

Date: Sunday, August 7, 2016

Position: Green Bay, Wisconsin

We started the Lake Michigan Race last Monday at noon. This race proved to be a tough one for all competitors. Sometimes the wind just doesn’t cooperate, and this was one of those times. No ship finished inside the time limit; it was very hot, and after two days of this we were all roasted like rotisserie chickens. Tall Ships America has a way of scoring these races even if you don’t finish, based on where you are on the course when the time limit runs out. If I had to guess, I would say When and If won, Pride came in second, Appledore IV was third, Niagara fourth. That’s a guess. What is a certainty is that this was one of the more unexciting, fly-slapping, sweating, complaining second-place finish I’ve ever experienced.

We then proceeded to Sturgeon Bay for the night, and thereafter to Green Bay. As we have experienced everywhere, our hosts have been very happy to see us, and very generous. We like to experience a little of what every region we visit has to offer so when our port liaison asked us, “What do you guys need?” we answered “Ummm……beer and cheese curds?” Believe me, everyone, the beer and cheese curds were delivered.

I’ve written a lot about the sailing part of the trip, but relatively little about the festivals themselves. The crowds have been huge – thousands of people a day walk our deck. When you see that many people in that many ports, patterns emerge. I feel I must stick up for my crew, here, by saying:

Don’t say “arrrr” to them. Please oh please. I know it’s well meant, done in a spirit of fun, but they are real sailors on a real ship with a storied history; the Baltimore Clippers of the War of 1812 and the construction and travels of Pride of Baltimore and Pride of Baltimore II are true and compelling stories of maritime prowess, travel, and adventure. Most of what the crew does at these festivals is patiently work to deconstruct what Hollywood pirate films have done to the public consciousness of what a sailing ship is and what a sailor is (it’s almost entirely nonsense).

Look at it this way: anyone who is proficient at and has devoted their life to anything is likely to despise the movie that is made about that thing. Firefighters hate “Backdraft.” Chess players hate the Bobby Fischer movie. Sailors hate pirate movies. If you are interested in a couple of pretty decent films that hit much closer to the mark reality wise, I can recommend “The Bounty” (made in the early 1980’s, with Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian and Anthony Hopkins as Captain Bligh). This is a cinematic retelling of the true story of the famous mutiny on HMS Bounty in the South Pacific in 1789, and the strange and incredible events that followed. Also, the more recent “Master and Commander” film, with Russell Crowe, is the closest thing in sight, sound, and tone to what life aboard a warship in the age of sail likely was.

The real is always more compelling than the fictional, don’t you think?

Signed,
Captain Jordan Smith