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

PRIDE II races from Cleveland with the other Tall Ships

Captain Miles goes home and Captain Trost assumes command of PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II.

I am writing from home, having been relieved by Captain Jamie Trost Monday morning in Cleveland, after 24 hours of consultation during the change of command process. This process is quite involving…even for two captains that are familiar with the ship and the mission. PRIDE is a complicated vessel with a complicated mission. Discussions of the condition of the vessel and the progress of the eleven officers and crew follow a random flow brought about by diverting often into detail to insure full comprehension.

As I write PRIDE is making her way from Cleveland towards Bay City. This morning she is departing Port Huron, MI after taking advantage of a free dock location last night. Crew are now rested from a hectic departure of Cleveland Monday racing the other tall ships. Today the weather in Lake Huron is light so PRIDE is able to motor along her way with little resistance. Soon, later today, PRIDE will be turning west into the shallow Saginaw Bay. Maybe they will be able to do some sailing then. You should soon read directly from Captain Trost about that.

Jan C. Miles, a Captain with Pride of Baltimore, Inc.

Motorsailing under Fores’l and Stays’l towards Delaware Bay Entrance

Pride of Baltimore II: 40 41.7’N 072 01.8’W
Wind East Force 2, Seas East 2′ Overcast

The sea is beginning to build but the breeze hasn’t yet filled in enough to be useful. A low pressure system off the Carolinas is on a reciprocal heading to Pride II’s. This poses a bit of a dilemma: If we try and make use of the breeze as it fills, we’re likely to slow down enough for the low to make a real mess of things before we round Cape May. But motoring, or motor sailing, with a favorable breeze screeches as the wrong thing to do. These options end up weighed on a familiar scale.

On a Saturday morning on my parent’s powerboat when I was a teenager, we weighed anchor at dawn off a Lake Erie beach where friends had a cottage and ran back to our marina slip before a gathering thunderstorm. I was disappointed to leave my friends, all sleeping ashore in the cottage. When we were all secure in the harbor, I pointed out to my father that the storm hadn’t amounted to much. This was true – grey cumulus speckled the sky, but it hadn’t rained, the breeze had never gotten to be more than moderate, and the only lightning was far on the Northern Horizon.

He turned to me and said, without pause, “It’s better to be in here wishing you were out there, than to be out there wishing you were in here.”

I’ve heard that rule echo in my head a number of times in my life, and it’s echoing again as the sea builds. This non-tropical low does not promise to be particularly intense, but its slow rate of advance means it will agitate the waters off New Jersey and Delaware for quite awhile as it lumbers toward the Northeast. While the forecast winds are not to exceed 40 knots, the seas may churn up a good Easterly swell and make our entrance to the Delaware Bay quite an ordeal.

So rather than wallow around waiting for the breeze, Pride IIis motoring sailing at a moderate pace to round Cape May by mid-day tomorrow. It’s likely we’ll get some good sailing in on the Delaware Bay, especially if the slow moving low keeps the wind more East than Nor’east. If not, we could end up wishing we were still offshore. But I doubt it.

Jamie Trost, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II