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Bidding Farewell to Montreal and the 2010 Tall Ship Fleet

0830 hours DST Tuesday September 21, 2010
Near Quebec City
Motoring down river under guidance of river pilots.

Fall has fallen here in the St. Lawrence River. Everyone is wearing winter coverings when on deck and winter-cabin cloths below. The sky has a winter cast to it with high clouds thin enough to filter the sun’s heat out of the rays that otherwise continue to require sun glasses. Passing by Quebec City this morning at 0700 hours the city did not stand out in the dimmed down morning sun. Instead it too seemed uncharacteristically cold and all hunkered down appearing.

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II departed Montreal yesterday afternoon after a morning of shore side rushing around and targeted maintenance biding time till the pilots arrived. Weather in Montreal was a pleasant 70 degrees stimulating shirt sleeves while walking vigorously in the direct  sunlight…but as much as a sweater or a coat when idle in the shade. Since departing Montreal, PRIDE has been steadily gaining latitude to he north, while also losing altitude towards sea level, on her way northeasterly towards Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Ocean. Fall weather has been pushing PRIDE along since soon after departing Chicago at the end of August. Now that it is three quarters into September we are in a race with fall towards the Chesapeake Bay with hopes of PRIDE arriving on schedule October 12. I think fall will be awaiting PRIDE’s arrival.

The tall ship fleet that was assembled for the American Sail Training Great Lakes Challenge of 2010 is now disassembled for good. All member vessels are now on singular schedules. All but the two privateers that is. LYNX is again right behind PRIDE making like an escort as both vessels voyage towards their next official rendezvous in Baltimore Harbor in time for the start of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. Once both vessels reach the American East Coast their routes will diverge until Baltimore. For now and until we reach the American East Coast it looks like anyone observing our passage might experience a double take as two similarly rakishly rigged vessels pass by separated by several miles to as much as half a day, due to the different length of the vessels hence potential speed difference.

Montreal’s tall ship festival seems by all accounts to have been a great success. Certainly the weather played a starring roll. After a cold and soaking parade of sail marking the arrival of the fleet on the eve of the festival the weather turned to marvelous…clear skies with high temperatures in the 70’s and lows at night near 50 that lasted throughout the weekend! The crowds to the ships were enthusiastic on all of the days. For the crews, the second largest French speaking city in the world beckoned. For North Americans seeking a Continental European experience, one does not have to go to Europe. Just go to Quebec Province in Canada! But be ready to pay European prices…at least in the city…beer for $8…just as a for instance. But the culture one experiences is dramatically different than that found outside of Quebec Province. City fashion appears to be singularly Continental European. Older architecture certainly is. Food and style of delivery is French…the common lingua is French…unless one goes out of one’s way to visit an Anglophone neighborhood.

All had to end…of course. We waved goodbye to our wonderful Old Port Marina hosts with a two cannon salute. Our hosts had been as attentive to all the needs of the vessels as new parents. I hope sincerely to a future visit.

But now it is time to refocus on getting PRIDE home…which entails close scrutiny and frequent monitoring of the weather. The weather fax machine has been turned on. The NAVTEX machine has been turned on. Periodic council with the pilots about the weather helps to put into perspective information coming in over the radio frequencies. Further council with LYNX (Captain Jamie Trost) refines the nuances of strategic choice that includes fuel conservation and alternative routing that might be available to achieve shelter for any really strong weather and certainly for any contrary weather. After the pilots debark sometime late this evening we will be in the position to consider sailing as the river will be wider and our timing will be less restricted…pilot time is money spent. Hence, even if there is sailable room, it is best to focus on minimum pilot time aboard then to consider sailing…unless sailing reduces pilot time.

With many PRIDE crew changes since mid August, it is also important to hold training meetings with the new crew. The latest changes occurred in Erie about 10 days ago. Since then there has only been two sailings made of only 6-12 hours and the mainsail was not set. The rest of the underway time has been motoring. When we next go sailing, should it include setting the mainsail, it will be the first time the mainsail is set since the ship was in Lake Huron back about September two weeks ago.

With all of changes in crew we are “back” to the spring after a winter of lay-up and a “new” crew that needs training time. But unlike the spring, we have thousands of miles to cover in limited time rather than short sails scheduled frequently over a month in home waters at the beginning of the season. Voyage planning for the run to Baltimore will be further affected by the newness of the crew.

Jan Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II