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PRIDE picks up St. Lawrence River Pilot

0830 hours Sunday June 20, 2010

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II was boarded at 0745 by the first set of pilots serving the required pilotage area for vessels greater than 37 meters (PRIDE is just less than 48 meters sparred length) serving the St. Lawrence River between Escumins, Quebec (just east of the Saguenay River as it intersects the St. Lawrence River) and Montreal. Typically it takes PRIDE near 48 hours and 3 sets of pilots to cover the 260 nautical miles from the pilot station at Escumins up the river past Quebec City to Montreal. From Montreal it will take PRIDE (without pilot) another near 36 hours to make Lake Ontario. In general, if nothing strange happens, it appears PRIDE is on schedule to make Oswego by late Thursday.

PRIDE’s fuel situation seems adequate as well. According to measurements and calculations there remains aboard PRIDE enough fuel to run with two engines for another 95 hours. If it takes 84 hours to get to Lake Ontario, that leaves about 11 hours of fuel left to get to Oswego. Considering there will be open Lake Ontario waters with no contrary current available to sail on verses the tight constantly running (contrary current flow heading down stream) river width that requires motoring, it is quite likely PRIDE will be able to sail without using engine power the last bit of distance to Oswego as PRIDE crosses the width of Lake Ontario. But even if she must motor the last distance across the lake, it looks like there will be fuel to do so.

The gale winds forecast for last night never materialized for PRIDE. There were rain clouds and lightning. But no high winds and no thunder was heard. Through the night and as this log is being written the wind has remained less than 15 knots. The forecast this morning suggests light winds for the start of today with “strong” winds due this afternoon. We cannot find a forecast for tomorrow. Hopefully it won’t bring really strong head winds (“strong wind” is Canadian jargon for winds less than 30 knots…bad enough if actually true when blowing on the bow…not good at all if stronger than 30 knots). The prevailing wind direction is down river or from the southwest, right from the direction we must go. Sometimes the wind can be quite strong…almost always it is 15-20 knots, hence an additional constant drag on PRIDE’s fuel economy as she “climbs” up the St. Lawrence River against the stream. During all of this motoring up river PRIDE will be gaining altitude above sea level. Lake Ontario is 243 feet above sea level. Most of that height will be climbed by a series of locks that will lift PRIDE some 40 feet each. But some of the height will be made by motoring against the current up the river to Montreal.

Now that the first two pilots are aboard to take us as far as Quebec, ship routine is back to normal save for the fact the pilots will issue instructions for where to steer rather than the watch leaders or the captain. But even with the pilots giving such direction, PRIDE’s watch leaders and captain must maintain vigilance. They must be aware, observe and understand all of the steering orders given by the pilot. If PRIDE’s watch leaders do not understand why any steering order is given by a pilot, they should still obey the request but immediately inform the captain…unless it is clearly obvious the new steering order is dangerous. The reason for this is that maritime pilots do not assume liability for damage or injury that comes from their orders. Such damage or injury as occurs by a pilot given order is still the liability and responsibility of the master. So, while the pilots exercise their intimate knowledge of the river as they guide PRIDE along, the officers and crew of PRIDE observe and permit those orders to occur as long as there is no danger presented by the pilot given order.

Pilots offer a window into the local culture and news of an area. They are the first introduction to their country the crew of a vessel will experience. Pilots are of course also a source of maritime information. As such I just learned that PRIDE’s timing of arrival at Escumins has her meeting the beginning of a significant ebb water between Quebec and Montreal starting when these first pilots think we will arrival Quebec near midnight tonight. Some of the ebb current can be six knots! Our first pilots have suggested it may be prudent to have PRIDE anchor till the beginning of the flood toward Montreal starting just after the first low water tomorrow morning around 0900. Anchoring from near midnight till 0900 will likely mean we do not arrive Montreal till early Tuesday morning. Overall this should not have a negative affect for being able to arrive Oswego by late in the day Thursday June 24. While such a delay seems not to be a problem I find myself disappointed. I had visions of reaching Montreal Monday afternoon in time to continue on into the Seaway lock system and getting ahead of the schedule somewhat to relax the crew.

Isn’t it the French language that provides us a quaint response to such a disappointment? I think that phrase is “C’est la vie.”

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II