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Mystique of the Greatest Lake

12 July 2011 1735 EDT
Pos: 47 39.7’N x 087 14.5’W
Sailing under all plain sail, plus T’gallant, making 7.5 knots, Wind WNW F4, Mostly Sunny

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II has finished her vertical climbing for the summer. Yesterday at 1315 she cleared the MacArthur Lock in Sault Ste. Marie Michigan and in doing so made the final 21 foot “step” into Lake Superior. But this doesn’t mean everything else is downhill. We are currently beating our way to the West end of the world’s largest body of fresh water, working against the prevailing winds and trying to round the tip of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. If you remember last year’s blogs about Superior, or have heard locals talk about the Lake, the Keweenaw forms the “mouth” of the giant wolf’s head the Lake resembles.

We’d thought the sailing was about to start last night at 1900, when we started seeing 20 knots from the West as we left Whitefish Bay, but once we had sail on the wind dropped to a mere 5 knots and we motorsailed through the night toward Michipicoten Island. Since tacking off of the island’s interestingly named Quebec Harbor (it is roughly 600 nautical miles West by North of Quebec City), we have been in powered up going to weather mode for PRIDE II. The angle of heel is something new for many of PRIDE II’s crew, as the vessel hasn’t been going to weather in winds over 15 knots very often this season. But they all find it exciting. The ship charges happily along, the decks dry except for an occasional rolling spurt through the lee scuppers.

The scale of the Lakes has been a constant topic of conversation for those in the crew who had never seen them before. As you might imagine, the fascination has only grown with PRIDE II now on the largest of them all. There is a different quality of light, some have remarked; the scale doesn’t seem to match, say others, noting that Michipicoten Island, so large on the chart, seemed to go by so quickly when we actually saw it. Even for someone who grew up on the Great Lakes, there is a mystique about this one. It’s bigger, deeper, higher, as if truly “superior” and seated on a throne above the “lower” Lakes. Its size and its location – a massive sea over 300 nautical miles from East to West, yet nearly at the heart of North America – give mind-boggling juxtaposition.

Our current longitude is west of the Florida Panhandle. By tomorrow we will near 90 degrees West, half way between Greenwich England and the International Date Line. All while six hundred feet above sea level. It almost requires a diorama to capture the extremes of this inland sailing we are doing.

And what sailing it is. Seven knots, sometimes 8 – start with the lowers and the tops’l as the onset of fresh winds spurs PRIDE II to life, then crack on and crack on as things moderate until we are all out of sail to set. At least sail that will carry to weather. The stuns’l is still in its bag, as is the fabled and rarely used ringtail. These “kites” only work when PRIDE II is not closehauled. But the forecast is calling for a shift, so we’ll see.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the Superior sailing crew aboard PRIDE of BALTIMORE II