Homeward Bound

We are down to the last 2 pilots of a total of 6 for the outward bound run of the St. Lawrence River. We departed Montreal yesterday at 4 pm. It is now 11 am and we are already past Quebec City. Going down stream is sooo much faster than struggling up stream! Estimates are we will be dropping these last pilots off before midnight…then we will be on our own again…save for the regular check-in calls with Vessel Traffic Control.

PRIDE’s reception in Montreal was very appreciative by the local organizers of our visit. The setting is a good one for PRIDE to amplify the potential beauty of the older part of the port, an area that has been under re-development for a couple of decades. In fact PRIDE’s presence was to help transmit the message that there is more development to be done…so please approve budgets for that to be done…or support such budget approvals.

For the crew Montreal has been a great experience. French style culture, big city, old architecture, and all the amenities right at hand. For a short stay what more could a sailor ask for?  Especially with the local friends that were around.  There were a number of up-bound Guest Crew who came back during the weekend and shared “their” Montreal. Meanwhile a staffer with the American Consul in Montreal, also a traditional vessel sailor from the West Coast, escorted the crew to some of Old Montreal.

Au revoir Montreal.  From here it is on to Lunenburg, our last Canadian port of call this season. 

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

St. Lawrence River salute in Quebec

PRIDE just received and returned a salute from “the” venerable gentleman of Cap-Charles, Quebec, located right on the shores of the St. Lawrence River.

For years this gentleman has raised the flag of the nation of registry of any ship passing by Cap-Charles on their way to or from Montreal. Included in the salute is the playing of the national anthem from huge speakers set facing the river from the shore. As PRIDE has traveled this part of the St. Lawrence River each time she has gone into and departed the Great Lakes, there have been a number of salutes exchanged over the years.

In this salute we heard “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Anchors Away”. In return PRIDE fired a single gun salute and dipped The Star-Spangled Banner.

Anyone interested in reading about this tradition one can visit the web site at www.bencancour.net/capcharles

Jan C. Miles Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Pilot Change at Quebec City

Cloudless sky, light winds, warming temperatures, Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Plains of Abraham where the French and British armies fought…oh yeah..and a change of pilots.

We carried the first two pilots from Escomins (near the Saguenay River) to Quebec City. At 0930 hours the exchange by small boat was made and while our first two pilots, David and Silva, got off (they boarded the ship yesterday at 1530 hours and have been aboard 18 hours) two more pilots have come aboard. They will likely be aboard about 12 hours…or until PRIDE reaches Trois-Rivieres (Three Rivers).

Motor, motor, motor…since 1100 hours yesterday. This will continue till tomorrow in Montreal…till maybe around mid day. With pilots aboard my own focus changes from acute oversight of navigation and recreational & commercial traffic to a more relaxed oversight.  To have the pilots aboard is a great expense…for me this is an unnecessary service as until 1999 PRIDE’s size did not require a pilot.  I made this trip up and down this river almost two dozen times in a mixture of vessels of similar size to PRIDE on my own without pilot.  But the regulations are the regulations and in 1999 a change was made and it has been required since then that PRIDE take pilots between Escumins and Montreal.

Meanwhile with such good weather and smooth conditions it is possible for PRIDE’s crew to get some significant cosmetic maintenance done. Not only for preparation of being in Montreal, but for catching up with the wear and tear that has accumulated since PRIDE departed from the Chesapeake Bay in the middle of May.

Arrival in Montreal will be tomorrow.  We’re running a little ahead of schedule so have to work out logistics with the port organizers in Montreal.  Ideally, we’ll be able to time it so that we get the largest audience possible so we can make a real show of it! 

Jane C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Anchored at Ile du Bic

Soon we pick up a St. Lawrence River Pilot.

The weather is windless and clear. We can see both sides of the 10 miles wide St. Lawrence River…high topography on both sides.  A little bit like A good day to be motoring…if one must motor a distance with a sail vessel.

We anchored for the night at Ile du Bic. It is a small uninhabited island/bird sanctuary located about 30 miles east of the Saguenay River.  We arrived in dungeon fog at 2245 hours and did not see anything of the island until 1000 hours this morning when the fog lifted. The coast line is similar to that of Maine and Nova Scotia.  Although inhabited, there are plenty of seals.  We could hear them last night – all night, and finally got to see them today.

After we pick up a pilot we will motor past the entrance of the Saguenay River.  The confluence of the Saguenay and the St. Lawrence is a popular area for the Beluga Whale. Maybe we will see some this trip. I have seen them on several previous trips back in the 1980s and the 1990s, but not in the 21st Century.  This trip of the St. Lawrence past the Saguenay will be the 4th one this decade, with no whales sighted during any of them.  So, what has happened to the Beluga Whale?

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Position Report August 11 – St. Lawrence River

Favorable winds for a change! But now we are looking to be early to the pilot station in the St. Lawrence River and may need to absorb 18 hours or so before we start the pilot-run up the river past Quebec City and on into Montreal.

Currently PRIDE is just inside the first of the narrowing part of the river as one moves from the gulf portion to the estuary portion. PRIDE is a little west of the Gaspe Peninsula with an easterly wind of about 10-15 knots letting PRIDE glide along on a smooth sea heading on a port jibe towards the southern shore. Just 16 nautical miles east of us is Matane, Quebec…a small port town with cross-river ferry service to the north shore.

Tomorrow, sometime in the afternoon, we will pick up a St. Lawrence River pilot (or two) at Escoumins, Quebec, located on the north shore just east of the Saguenay River. From there it is about 270 odd nautical miles to Montreal. It is likely to take 44 hours to motor to Montreal. This will require three different pilot boarding’s with the likelihood of two pilots coming aboard to start and again at Quebec City as the original two get off.  Last there will be a pilot exchange at Trois Rivieres (Three Rivers) about half way up to Montreal from Quebec City that will guide us into Old Port Montreal.


Now Little Brother is Watching…

PRIDE just crossed into what is called a Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) zone. VTS zones are created to eliminate the possibility of ship collisions in areas considered to have significant ship density. There are several VTS zones around the world…but rather few of them in Eastern North America. New York Harbor has one. Galveston to Houston has a VTS. Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts is a new one started less than five years ago. Halifax Harbor has one. Canso Straits (between Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island) has one. Northumberland Straits (between Prince Edward Island and the mainland) has one and the St. Lawrence River between longitude 66 West near the top center of the Gaspe Peninsula all the way to Montreal is a rather large one. In Europe there are traffic zones stretching from the beginning of the English Channel separating France and England all the way into the Baltic Sea with numerous smaller zones in the numerous commercial harbors on either side of the main traffic zones between Great Britain and the European Continent.

On the navigation charts, traffic lanes are depicted for inbound and outbound shipping to follow. Radio communication is setup for regular reporting of a vessel’s position within the traffic scheme. Overall it is not unlike an airport landing pattern with parallel lanes being monitored by a central control. Sometimes these VTS Zones provide areas for smaller vessels with no radio reporting requirements as long as such vessels do not wander into the “freeway” lanes of a VTS. This is not the case with the St. Lawrence Seaway…all commercial vessels regardless of size and regardless if they are not using the traffic lanes are required to participate in the VTS radio contact system. And so PRIDE is participating.

There has been no wind of any consistent strength or direction of 10 knots or better since PRIDE departed Gaspe yesterday morning. This morning there has been rain since before dawn. But there is the coast of Gaspe to see up close (within half a mile) as PRIDE slides by at about 4.5 knots using one of her two engines (to conserve fuel) while trying to escape the outbound river current of the St. Lawrence that runs along the Gaspe shore mostly out in deeper water further off shore.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II