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Sailing "Full&By" in Lake Erie

0800 hours Tuesday July 6, 2010

Sailing “full&by” midway between Dunkirk and Erie, Pennsylvania about 6.5 nautical miles off (north of) the southern lake shore. Wind about 8 knots from the southwest, making between 3&4 knots. Less than 100 nautical miles to go to Cleveland in the next 24 hours.

Our visit with the rest of the sail training fleet in Toronto’s Tall Ship Festival over their Canada Day Weekend went well…mostly because of the weather. A glorious cool dry cold front weather pattern. It had us in long sleeves and sweaters at night and shirt sleeves during the day. The Canadians were complaining about the cold…I was rejoicing in it. I cannot speak for the crew.

Between two square rigged vessels from off the continent and those from the North American Continent there were four square rigged vessels of greater than 150 feet as measured by their protruding spars fore&aft (EUROPA, ROALD AMUNDSEN, FLAGSHIP NIAGARA & HMS BOUNTY). In addition there were several fore & aft rigged square topsail rigged vessels adding together PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II, UNICORN and the small but tremendous Toronto Brigantines PLAYFAIR and PATHFINDER. In addition there were several fore & aft rigged schooners from the U.S. ~ ROSEWAY, APPLEDORE V & DENIS SULLIVAN.

For the Great Lakes this is a pretty good sized fleet. In Toronto it would look bigger than it actually is because Toronto has two rather large three masted schooners (KAYANA & EMPIRE SANDY) used as local day trip vessels. Then there is the active private recreational fleet from surrounding marinas and yacht clubs…some located on the outlying islands that form Toronto Harbor and can only be reached by ferry…and there are lots of ferries. Overall, the maritime scene along Toronto’s Harbor Front was very active celebrating tall ships as well Canada Day.

Getting from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie is a process for vessels. It requires negotiating Welland Canal’s 8 locks, of which 7 lift or drop a vessel about 55 feet each in order to cross over the Niagara Escarpment. With vessels seeking to go down as well to go up, and typically only one vessel per lock at a time, the process generally takes less than 12 hours. Due to the inexplicable strategy of blocking the sail training fleet entry into the lock system by Welland Canal Dispatch till early Monday morning rather than let those that requested it to enter during Sunday night, then clustering the fleet into tight groupings of 3 groups of 3 vessels for simultaneous locking back to back created significant slowdown of transit. This slow down resulted in complaints from other larger commercial traffic forced to experience slowdowns due to one-way traffic. It would have been better for all had the sailing vessels that wanted, be “let into” the system overnight. It would have reduced the clustering and spread out the clustering that occurred. As a result, instead of spending 12 hours PRIDE spent almost 16 hours in the system…a record for me with 12 up bound transits of the Welland Canal over the last 30 years.

Since clearing the Welland Canal into Lake Erie at 2100 hours last night PRIDE has been sailing in light SW winds. This morning the topgallant is being set for the 2nd time due to confusion of the deck officers…they are getting the process correct now and soon it too will be adding effort to sailing toward Cleveland ~ ETA tomorrow morning. With less than 100 miles to go, we should be on schedule…but I doubt we will be able to sail the whole way if winds are always SW, considering that is where Cleveland lays.