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Sailing under all plain sail

26 July 2010
Pride of Baltimore II
Pos: 47 36.6’N x 089 20.8’W
Wx: SSW F 3
Sailing under all plain sail
Course: 272, Speed: 6.0 kts

Another splendid sailing day aboard Pride of Baltimore II. The sea state is still calm, the wind still enough to move us along, though also still coming from nearly exactly where we want to go. This morning we tacked South off Isle Royale. So we have passed the eye of the wolf’s head and approach our destination at the end of the snout. But, it seems, our weather luck is coming to an end.

The best-laid plans of anchoring in the Apostle Islands in the way I had imagined have encountered a twist. I myself may have jinxed them yesterday by speaking so glowingly of them, thinking of their rich, red bluffs crested with green pines under the kind of crystal sky we have had the last few days. Instead, the upcoming forecast is for rain, thunderstorms and brisk contrary winds. And the latest edition of the forecast has altered Wednesday’s previously workable Northwest and Northerly breezes to plain in our face West.

Resultantly, my picture perfect anchorage has been water stained and wind blown. Few locations in the Apostles would offer good protection for the variety of breezes to be expected, and we would have the poor luck of sitting just offshore the gorgeous islands in the rain with the constant threat of a storm keeping us jailed aboard monitoring the weather. “It would be like looking through the windows of a closed candy shop,” surmised deckhand Jeff Crosby, our Duluth native and as such best local knowledge of the islands.

Stopping for any time in the islands also creates the very real possibility of sloughing along the last 60 miles of lake against brisk Westerlies – no good way to end a passage that has seen such pleasant sailing, if it can be avoided.

What do to, then? Of the nearly limitless options, I conjured up four that seemed plausible:

1) Pack in all the sailing gear and motor the 60 miles to the Islands, hoping for a quite night at anchor and a brief time ashore before the rain tomorrow. Deal with snotty Wednesday Weather on approach to Duluth. 2) Continue sailing with an arrival to the Islands early tomorrow morning, then anchor and try to get ashore, still dealing with Wednesday’s weather. 3) Abandon idea of Islands and just keep sailing as long as possible, then motor to make Duluth before onset of weather. 4) Pack it all sailing gear and motor straight for Duluth, starting now. Get in well ahead of weather.

At this stage, this blog could become like one of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books so popular when I was in grade school. Each option would have a different page to turn to, with a new set of circumstances and choices.

But this is life, and there is turning back to the choosing page. Nor do I have anything but my best guess as to what the new circumstances will be.

So many factors influence the choice. The safe and on-time arrival of the ship (or early, but never late). The hope for a good experience on the part of the guest crew, who have take time out of their lives for this passage.  The cost of fuel and how much it will take to enact any of these plans. The morale of the crew. The endless list of projects to keep Pride II in working order.

All this could, in fact, make the head spin. And after a remarkable three days of beating up Lake Superior in unusual comfort behind us, veteran Guest Crew Jim Hilyard claimed today this was the most pleasant sailing he’d had in his 14 passages aboard Pride II. So the idea of “ruining” such a trip – either by motoring or through a miserable last day – seems horrifying. But one or the other is necessary.

Which will it be? Stay tuned to find out tomorrow.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the suspense-filled crew of Pride of Baltimore II