Last Day of Lake Erie

6 September, 2011
Position: Alongside Port Colborne, Ontario
Wx: NxE F 1, Overcast

After a full and festive Labor Day Weekend, Pride of Baltimore II concluded her second visit to Buffalo. This traditional last hurrah for summer has brought changes in full store. In addition to a crew rotation of five crew departing the ship and five new hands to replace them, Captain Miles and I have also turned over command of the Pride II. On top of that, the weather definitely got the memo that summer was over – Pride II entered Buffalo in sweltering 90 degree heat on Friday, but a double cold front passage Sunday night has made certain the highs never topped 65 degrees yesterday or today. While that’s still pretty mild, it represents a nearly 30 degree change.

So out come the long pants, the occasional sweater, and the message is clear: Autumn is coming, and it is time to start the passage back to our home in the relatively temperate Chesapeake. While Ardrey Manning, Kaitlin McGee and all the volunteers and staff from the Erie Canal Harbor Development and the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club made Pride II’s holiday weekends in Buffalo a smashing success for all involved, we had to be on our way. After all the thank-yous and good-byes, we cleared customs outwards for Toronto and broke the happy inertia of being in port at 1500, making one last show by sailing off the dock in Erie Canal Harbor and out the breakwaters toward the Welland. In contrast to the thrumming crowd we’d grown used to in Buffalo, just a few onlookers watched, applauded and wished us well as we made our way West under sun-cracked grey skies. Thanks again to all who made Buffalo a home away from Baltimore for Pride II and her crew.

Once underway, there was no shortage of training to do with so many new hands. Keeping the sail plan conservative with just the “day sail combo” of Fores’l, Stays’l and Foretops’l, we still had Pride IItopping 8 knots with a moderate Northeasterly breeze while we ran through drills for Fire and Man Overboard scenarios. With good performance and attentive hands, the drills went smoothly. There is still, as always, a great deal for both new and old hands to learn, but the crew is solid. After debriefing the drills and throwing in a few maneuvers, we secured alongside in Port Colborne at sunset. Lake Erie is behind us now – bittersweet for me, since it is quite a thrill to have Pride II in the waters on which I grew up sailing. But now on to tomorrow’s challenge, the big descent through the 8 Locks of the Welland Canal.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the fresh faced crew of Pride II

The Port that Kept on Giving

Tuesday, July 5
Position: 12 nm North of Dunkirk, New York
Wx: SW F 3 Partly Cloudy and warm Sailing at 6.5 knots, close-hauled, steering 190 under all plain sail, plus T’gallant

After nearly a week of tours, daysails and all around excitement, PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II left Buffalo’s Erie Canal Harbor this morning at 1100. As always there were details to attend to before getting underway, and more than in most ports lots of thank-you’s to say. Our visit to Buffalo was a crescendo of enthusiasm that seemed like it wouldn’t end. Thanks to the media blitz that followed our arrival, the ship was sold out for all her daysails by Friday morning, and the one we added for the afternoon of July 4th filled up in hours and over 1,500 visitors came aboard for dockside tours.

This is great news for PRIDE II, and for Buffalo. If the city ever wanted proof that a Baltimore Inner Harbor type development would be a big draw, I think the excitement of this weekend stands tall as supporting evidence. And aboard PRIDE II, we are happy to bring the flavor of Baltimore’s revival to other cities looking to emulate. Particularly when they give us such a warm welcome – special thanks to the Hilliman family of SPIRIT OF BUFFALO for all their help, and the same for Ardrey Manning for the host of volunteers she had ready to handle lines, manage crowds and stamp hands all through the weekend. Of course a huge thanks to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for arranging docking and the media onslaught, as well as to Buffalo Place for your assistance with advertising and promotion.

Now it’s on to Detroit, with a whole Lake in between. Unlike the departure from Rochester, however, the weather is the typical Westerly and Southwesterly winds of summer. Not the right direction, in fact, the exact WRONG direction, but a pleasant and workable strength for PRIDE II to ply her way to weather. From here until Duluth we will be mostly working against the prevailing winds. Fortunately, PRIDE II is about as weatherly as schooners can be, so we have the chance to keep sailing as long as there is a breeze to work with.

All best,
Captain Jamie Trost

Of Duels and Daysails

3 July 2011
Pos: Alongside Buffalo’s Erie Canal Harbor
Wx: West F 3, Sunny
Captain Trost at the helm in Buffalo.

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II’s visit in Buffalo has been the cause of much excitement and interest so far. From the moment we rounded the point into Erie Canal Harbor the film has been rolling and the cameras flashing. Crowds have gathered nearly constantly in the park next to the dock. Sometimes they come for concerts, but more often they line up to tour PRIDE II. Last night they watched the crew furl and secure for the night – every step of the process receiving a round of applause.

In fact, Buffalo is so enamored of PRIDE II that all six of her daysails here have been completely sold out! This is a great sign for the future development of Erie Canal Harbor into a tourist destination similar to Baltimore’s own Inner Harbor. Hopefully the enthusiasm will carry on for our return visit in September and also have people exploring Buffalo Harbor aboard their own local ship SPIRIT of BUFFALO.
The Challenge

The enthusiasm on the dock reached a completely unforeseen and novel level before yesterday’s sail. After PRIDE II closed for tours, a man clad in full British Naval costume stood on the promenade above the dock and called me out with formal English inflection and pronouncing my name – either out of increased stage drama or unfamiliarity — in the German fashion as if there were an umlaut over the “O.” He demanded, with a rattling of his saber and increasing attention from the crowd, that I produce PRIDE II’s Letter of Marque and Reprisal, else he would “see me hanged as a common pirate.”

These types of theatrics and costumery are amusing at appropriate times, and in small doses. This was as appropriate a time as any, and the crowd was certainly amused. As a rule, the crew and captains of PRIDE II do not wear historic costume, and are never “in character.” We go to sea in EMULATION of Captains Thomas Boyle and Joshua Barney and all the sailors whose sweat, toil, craft and craftiness made their indelible mark on the history of the War of 1812, and forever etched Baltimore and her Schooners into maritime lore. But we do not IMMITATE, or re-enact, anything. The weather, the wind and waves, the stability and all the concerns of going to sea in a wooden boat are as real for us as they were for the Privateers in 1812. We, of course, have vastly advanced navigation equipment and auxiliary power, but we also have the scrutiny of official regulations and fixed schedules. To dress and act the part would trivialize the realities of our constant nautical archeological experimentation in sailing one of these sleek and powerful Baltimore Schooners.

The Vanquished

Additionally, in our case, the SHIP is the centerpiece. PRIDE II herself is, and should be, the focus of attention for the onlooking crowd. A lofty rigged and gorgeous Baltimore Schooner is far more interesting than any or all of her crew in historic dress and watching PRIDE II charge into a harbor under a press of canvas is much better show than any staged exchange imaginable. We play the supporting cast to our ship, and are happy to do so. But none of this means we aren’t opposed to having a bit of fun ourselves.

I told our decorated British “adversary” that the Letter of Marque was below. It, in fact, is, but framed and fastened to the bulkhead aft of the main saloon table. Instead of fetching the Letter, I took the only course available – I went to my cabin, retrieved the Nerf Pistol I received as a jovial birthday present by Captain LeeAnne Gordon of the Schooner LYNX, and challenged our man to a duel. We agreed to ten paces, had a young boy in the crowd count them out, then turned and “fired.” His was a non-firing pistol. The Nerf dart went ten feet. My adversary fell, croaking out “for England” as he fell. I helped him to his feet and the crowd applauded.
The Truce
The Truce

Turns out it was an issue of frustration that led to our British friend’s outburst. He had wanted to book a sail aboard, but tickets were sold out before he could. He was, I should note, an excellent sport about the whole thing. I encouraged him to try again in September, when we’d return for Labor Day Weekend.

We parted amicably, but as PRIDE II motored out of Erie Canal Harbor for her afternoon sail, he appeared on the shore once more, taunting and jeering. Swearing his revenge and triumph. Adding an appropriate dose of color at exactly the appropriate time. And then we flashed out the fores’l, sheeted home the tops’l and let PRIDE II start her own show.

All best,
Jamie Trost, Dueling Captain aboard PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II

First Taste of Lake Chop on a Day of Connections

Position: Alongside Buffalo Erie Canal Harbor
Wx: WSW F 6, Mostly Sunny

Arriving in Buffalo, PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II is serving as a lynchpin for a number of connections. First off, in this 199th year since the War of 1812, we bring the East Coast story of the Baltimore Privateers, their successes haranguing British commerce and ultimately their role in inspiring the Star-Spangled Banner to a Great Lakes Port rich with its own 1812 history. Buffalo and its surrounds had the thunderings of Fort Erie firing from the Canadian shore, daring “cutting-out” expeditions in which American sailors snuck aboard and stole British ships in the dead of night along the Niagara River and all the skirmishes and tension you might imagine in a place so strategically located along navigable waters.

Beyond that, we come from our own Inner Harbor to a section of Buffalo envisioned by Buffalo to become its own waterfront attraction, and at a time when progress towards that goal is really starting to happen. Fittingly, our escort in to the Harbor included the newly re-christened SPIRIT OF BUFFALO, under the command of Captain Rich Hilliman – native of Buffalo and former Captain of Baltimore’s own LADY MARYLAND!

This day of connections started out after a good night’s rest along the West Street Wharf in Port Colbourne. Sailing off the wall and out into Lake Erie, the crew of PRIDE II got their first taste of Great Lakes Chop. While we were transiting the Welland, a Westerly breeze was churning up Lake Erie into a considerable sea state. Granted, it was only blowing 20 knots, and the sea state was “just” three to five feet, but in fresh water, ANY sea state is a considerable sea state. The water is less dense, so the ship floats lower. In PRIDE II’s case two inches lower. And in the Great Lakes, the running joke is that when they say 3-5, they mean that many seconds apart. As with most jokes, there is an edge of truth to it – this morning’s Eastern Lake Erie Buoy report was for a four foot sea, every five seconds.

That kind of spacing knocks a boat, even a 185 ton one, around a bit. So the crew, who thus far had only experienced Lake Ontario in near calm conditions or with favorable Easterlies, got to feel the bumpy, washboard road sensation of the Lakes. Fortunately, Buffalo is East of Port Colbourne, and so down wind. But we still had some maneuvering to do in the lake, lest we be early for our grand arrival.

As I wrote yesterday, the Lake Erie Interclub Race Fleet was in Abino, Ontario, just ten miles East of Port Colbourne. The Interclub is a series of races hosted between five yacht clubs in Eastern Lake Erie. At the end of June each year for over 50 years, boats from each club do five or six races – both across the Lake between the homeports of the clubs and “round the buoys” at several of the clubs. This gives opportunities for different styles and distances of races, as well as letting each of the clubs play host to the visiting boats.

As it turns out, they had one more “round-the-buoys” race today. So as we sailed out we saw a fleet of 40 modern yachts, plus one classic Alden ketch charging along to the North of us. Aboard one of the modern yachts was my Uncle, Tom Trost, and in command of the ketch was David Bierig, the sailmaker in Erie I once worked for. Giving a wide enough berth not to interfere with the racing, we brought PRIDE II up on the wind and did a sail-by to leeward of the finish line, just as the first round of boats were finishing. There was a connection to make there too.

Seventeen years ago, I sailed that race as a teenager. I was working as the mast man aboard a 46 foot International Offshore Rule Racer named ARIES – my job was to haul (or “jump”) the halyards for all the sail changes, and assist the bow man with all the set up and clean up in between. It was a step and fetch it job, no down time, all hustle with heavy gear and lots of maneuvering, charging around race courses with a constant and laser focused eye toward every tenth of knot gained, every yard of distance shaved off the distance. I didn’t have a clue at the time, but that series back in 1994 and everything else I did like it were laying a foundation, because it is the very same type of sailing we do aboard PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II.

That same summer, PRIDE II came to Erie for a Tallship’s event a few weeks after I had sailed the Interclub. She was among 14 other vessels, but she was my favorite, just as she was when she’d come to Erie in 1989 and 1993. (In case anyone was wondering, officially and for the record, she is, in fact, still my favorite.) All I knew of this “traditional sailing” back then came from reading Treasure Island or Jack London’s Cruise of the Dazzler. But PRIDE II’s sleek lines and lofty rig screamed speed to me. In ’93, I went to the festival on my birthday, and it was so crowded I only had time to see one boat before I had to go to work. I saw PRIDE II. In ’94 she was in port alongside the replica warships ROSE and NIAGARA, and as a tourist aboard her I asked one of the crew “So you’re faster than all the rest of these boats, right?” The reply, “We have to be, they’ve got more guns than we do,” was coated with humor, but delivered, naturally, with pride. The ship was fast, and this guy knew so for a fact, but was clever enough to be modest in admitting it.

I never dreamed then that I’d someday be in command of PRIDE II. But here I am. And there was the racing fleet I’d grown up in. So, with time to spare in the schedule, I had to make a showing. We sailed so close I could recognize some of the boats from the ’94 race, still going strong, though ARIES has long since been sold out of the fleet. We tacked away, and as we turned on our heel, I gave a call to the fleet on the radio, telling them they all looked great and wishing them fast racing and safe sailing. But maybe what I should have said was “Thanks for the training, guys. You taught me a thing or two about speed. And look where it helped get me. Now I’ve got to go and sail the hottest schooner in the fleet to Buffalo.”

All best,
Jamie Trost, Captain aboard PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II

326 Ft. Climb

28 June 2011
Position: Alongside West Street Wharf, Port Colbourne, Ontario
Wx: WSW F 3-4 Partly Cloudy and Warm

Pride of Baltimore II has made it up Niagara Falls…Sort of…By using the eight locks of the Welland Canal, the ship has “climbed” 326 feet today, and bridged the gap between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. A fitting event for my first passage back in command, because just sixty-five nautical miles to the Southwest are the very waters on which I first learned to sail. And meanwhile, yacht racers from my childhood are in a Canadian port just ten miles to the East of us, finishing up the Annual “Interclub” racing series between Lake Erie Yacht Clubs.

Our sailing aboard Pride II was overly speedy en route from Rochester, but thanks to favorable breezes we sailed from the entrance channel of Rochester to within sight of the entrance to the Welland, reducing sail at times to make the canal at day break so our guest crew could get a good look at the spectacle that moving ships vertically can be.

Compared to the sailing, the locking through the Welland was much more work. The crew have plenty to do rigging wooden fendering to protect the ship and lines to take up as furiously as the water fills the deep box of the locks. There are eight total locks in the canal, seven of them raising the ship over 40 feet. Thanks to careful positioning by the lock crews, Pride II encountered minimal turbulence, which translates to less work for the crew. But still lots of work. As a pay off, the crew was able to look astern from the top of Lock 7 and see clear back (7 miles) and down (326 feet) to Lake Ontario.

With eighteen hours of sailing and twelve hours of locking behind us, we are sitting pretty to make Buffalo – a mere 20 miles East – for a grand arrival tomorrow. Lake Erie has churned up a 5 foot chop, and the forecast is for moderation tomorrow, so we are taking the opportunity to rest up and get ready to wow them in Buffalo tomorrow.

All best, 
Jamie Trost, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II