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A Sailor’s Sense of Accomplishment

Photo: Sailing off into the sunset, courtesy of Jeff Crosby

Date: Friday, July 26, 2019
Location: Green Bay

There was more “actual” sailing than all of the transits combined made between Toronto and Buffalo, Buffalo and Cleveland, and Cleveland and Bay City.

Over the three day transit to Green Bay, three separate eight-hour sails of speeds between six and eight knots occurred. All the other transits were often less than half the speed … or were drifters.

Interestingly, it seems there is a feeling among the crew of having done something. Meaning physically worked over the last three days of transit between Bay City and Green Bay.

All three sailings between Bay City and Green Bay were upwind. Sails closely trimmed. What we sailors call close-hauled. Such sailing at speeds between six and eight knots means Pride’s angle of heel was at least 15 degrees. Sometimes near 20 degrees. Deck edge is still dry. So such angle is dry deck sailing. All such sailing feels good. For those on deck. For those off watch down below in their bunks, the feeling ranges extremely from being in a hammock, snug a sorta gravity well, or being catapulted out with more than several feet to fall.

What was going on between those three sails? Motoring with all sails forward of the mainsail secured, doused, sea stowed. This was done to keep to the arrival deadline in Green Bay. With all sails forward of the mainsail secured. There were three “settings” of sails, except mainsail, set just the once, not something that can be counted on, so a small blessing. Foresail, staysail, jib, and square-topsail. With new wind to sail with, all require quite a bit of energy to set and trim for close-hauled sailing.v

For this transit, once set, the sails did not need much tending for each of the three separate eight-hour fast wind-powered upwind, close-hauled sails. And being the length each sailing was, there were watch changes. No single watch was the only watch to do any heavy lifting. All three watches, in turn, had the experience of the heavy lifting and trimming for the best shape of the sail. As per normal, all the heavy lifting & trimming was done with two watches (never all-hands … save for an emergency). Two watches means at least six persons, plus also the addition of guest crew. After all the work is complete, one of the two watches is stood-down while other maintains the watch. Those on watch steering in turns of one hour and checking the ship’s condition each hour. Walking the length of the heeled ship on deck and down below.

Three eight-hour sails with similar times of motoring in between. Struck and sea-stowed sails (furled in a fast and tight way rather than in a tidy “harbor stowed” way all smooth and almost disappeared from view). Sea-stowing requires clambering out to the head-rig for securing staysail and jib and climbing some seventy feet above water up to the top-yard to the square-topsail.

When the sailing opportunity appeared, to shake loose sail that clambering out and climbing up was repeated ahead of the setting and trimming of sail. Weight of setting and trimming taking at least three persons on the same line. Often four & five. Then revert to one watch steering and checking. The other stood-down to either a gravity well of a bunk or one that is gonna by more like a dumpster in the act of being dumped depending on if you are on the high side or low side of the boat.

Where were the sailings? The first was Monday night to Tuesday morning along the east side of Michigan from near Tawas City northward, ending eastward of Alpena. The second was Tuesday evening to wee hours of Wednesday from the middle of upper & western Lake Huron south of St Mary’s River through Round Island Passage by Mackinac Island and westward under Mackinaw Bridge to near White Shoal Light on the Lake Michigan side of the Mackinac Straits. The third sail was from breakfast Wednesday to late afternoon. A two-leg upwind, close-hauled zigzag that started near northern mid-Lake Michigan east of Point aux Barques, on Garden Peninsula of Upper Peninsula Michigan. Thence south and southeastward on a starboard tack towards Manitou Island. Tacking to port-tack at noon west of the Fox Islands, thence heading westward toward St Martin Island Passage, just one of the passages into Green Bay. That sail ended right at St Martin Island Passage with the approach of a significant squall line crossing the length of Green Bay as it moved down from the north.

So, four motorings at between 6 and 7 knots of around eight to ten hours length each between three solid sails of 6 and 8 knots for around eight hours each. Altogether covering the 350 odd nautical miles between Bay City and Green Bay over a period of 72 hours from start to finish.

Maybe the crew feels a little exercised. I feel accomplished for finding the sailings. Deadlines must be met. There are contractual agreements to honor. For sure can be met by motoring. But not a soul aboard wants to only motor. Yet all understand deadlines and how motoring is a tool for ensuring timely arrival. How to find a usable wind? Weather forecasting is the first tool. All such are somewhat general in the scope of time and area. All told it was apparent from the start wind would largely be contrary. Timed to change to remain contrary as em>Pride moved around Lower Michigan. At first heading northeastward out of Saginaw Bay. Then north and west and south around Lower Michigan. I focused on when there might be a chance to sail to advantage versus times for motoring with expedience. I think the most fortunate choice made was to motor up “high” into western north Lake Huron between the end of the first sail near Alpina to near south of St Mary’s River rather than towards the shortest route between Bois Blanc Island and Lower Michigan. Adding a little distance was rewarded by a sailable wind that enabled a close-hauled “sunset” sail westward through Round Island Passage. Passing Mackinac Island and seeing “Big Mack” bridge in the western sunsetting twilight. There would have been no sailing taking the shortest distance through the channel between Bois Bland Island and Lower Michigan. Tuesday’s northwest wind would have bent to come from the west under the channeling effect of the two landmasses bordering the shortest distance route. What caused me to take the long way around Bois Blanc Island? Partly the forecast indicating northwesterly wind all day Tuesday and on into the evening. The further north we went the better chance for slant for sailing close-hauled on a starboard tack. Plus a close pass of the 1812 Fort at Mackinac Island, a tourist island where there are no automobiles, instead, horses and horse-drawn carriage or wagon. Plus knowing the shortcut would be a channel with land on both sides that would funnel the wind from northwest to west. Would mean no useable wind for sailing the narrow water of that short-cut. The other two rewarding sails were the simple out of everyone’s hands result of wind arriving to fill a calm or dying and going contrary or threatening squalls approaching. The in-between sailings motoring positioned em>Pride ahead of schedule. So when new winds came, there was time to go sailing. Particularly as those sailings would be pretty quick and mostly in the right direction. Meant progress. With progress could continue sailing. The moment, not enough progress, switch to motoring. Except when sailing was threatened by approaching squalls.

Overall a good transit. One leaving a sense of accomplishment. Maybe tiering accomplishment. But a sailors sense of accomplishment.


Captain Jan C. Miles