CAPTAIN'S LOG: Sailing a big complex schooner in tight waters

Captain’s Log
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Washington DC Navy Yard

Pride of Baltimore II is moored at the Navy Yard in Washington DC. A 100 nautical mile trek up the Potomac River. A river that winds serpentine like as it narrows to a navigable channel only a couple of hundred feet wide. Today there are two low level bridges to pass through requiring opening and there is also a shallow water patch that cannot be passed over unless the water level is higher than 2 feet above low water. Fortunately the range of tidal water levels in the DC area is 3 or more feet. And Pride has engines to handle the tight waters, the specific times of bridge openings that must be booked in advance by not less than 24 hours as well docking on schedules set long in advance.

Even with such modern capability, the actual act of sailing 1812 War period Baltimore Schooner Privateer Pride in any of the waters and rivers of the Chesapeake Bay is a nearly constant level of physical and mental demand on her officers and crew; they’re responding to a nearly continuous sail evolution, when one includes setting or striking and adjusting sail as the ship is sailed and cannot avoid approaching shallow water on any course she is directed toward. So, for the most part, sailing Pride in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay is more continually mentally and physically demanding for all aboard than when Pride voyages longer voyages and more open waters.

There are times when a long slant of uninterrupted sailing by any sail evolution occurs in our lovely Chesapeake Bay. That is when the crew have a chance to breath and maybe do some shipboard maintenance. But Pride‘s officers are still constantly involved with monitoring the direction of sailing for approaching shallow water and any changes of wind pattern due to cloud/rain activity (of course an approaching weather front) that may have a beneficial or negative affect on the current situation. All this reality ignores for the moment other vessel traffic (recreational and commercial) also plying the Bay.

So, Chesapeake Bay sailing is not generally a sublime experience aboard Pride considering her size and her complexity and her speed, that can take you to a decision point very suddenly. All who ever sail her look forward to the open waters and the longer voyages. That is where the romance we all read about and is expressed so clearly in John Masefield’s poem Sea Fever with the a most well known line “…and all I want is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…”

But Being in home waters for the Bicentennial of the Maryland portion of the 1812 War is a very special occasion. Especially as it was vessels like Pride that gave as much reason for the British Navy and Marines to make the effort to invade Baltimore to destroy the shipyards making such schooner privateers; only to fail and leave Americans with our county’s National Anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner, written in September of 1814, almost 200 years ago. Just after the burning of Washington DC government buildings as well the Navy Yard Pride is currently moored at. There is a lot of reflecting here in Maryland and Washington DC going on about what happened and why nearly two centuries ago. Lots of interesting details of that period are being re-understood and many new ways of depicting what happened and why is on display here at the Navy Yard Museum as well scattered around Maryland and for sure in Baltimore.

I hope all of you readers are taking a chance to visit such sites of history and attend events commemorating the actual anniversaries. The crescendo events scheduled to occur in Baltimore in September will be SPECTACULAR!!! Please come and help with the commemorations!!

Signed; the hard sailing Crew and Officers of Pride of Baltimore II

CAPTAIN'S LOG: "The Spa" aboard PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II…a rare speciality…to be found nowhere else…

Swimming, sailing, exercise, calisthenics, weights, climbing, good food, cool drinks, naps in the morning, naps in the afternoon, fantastic deserts, all day long activities, well into the evening hours. Night-sky full of stars and the occasional planet. A half moon at the moment. Ever changing view of wide open spaces remote from crowded developments. Quiet environment save for the wind in the rigging and the jokes of your spa-mates.

For two days Pride has been sailing south in the Chesapeake Bay without aid of engine. The wind has been a hot, mostly breezy 10-20 knots from the SSW & SW.

Sailing started at 1100 yesterday (Monday) right from the Inner Harbor. At 2130 last evening the anchor was dropped near Deal, Maryland and the harbor known as Herring Harbor on the west side of The Bay south of the Annapolis Region…sort of directly across from Poplar Island/Tilghman Island on the eastern side. Yesterday’s sail required 8 tacks because of the amount of south in the wind direction. The crew were stood into their “sea watches” for the day on one hour rotation. The two watches not steering and keeping an eye on things were stood down to nap, read, whatever, till they were called for tacking. By 2215 all was secured and all hands stood down for the night after sailing to the anchor. Come 2300, not a soul was in sight, not a creature was stirring.

Today the day started at 0600 with sailing off the anchor. Wind was up a bit more than 10-15 with gusts of 20 knots from yesterday. Today it was forecast to 15 knots with gusts of 25 knots. With the more southwesterly slant than yesterday it only took 2 tacks to get further down The Bay. We did not actually see gusts of 25 knots till this afternoon as we were approaching Point No Point, MD. At first we struck the square fore-topsail. Then upon review of the situation, struck the main ‘on the fly’ and jibbed around (striking the jib while doing so) to reverse our course about one mile to anchor close to the western shore not far north of Point No Point. As of 1500 there was swim call. 88 degree water! Very spa like…might you think? Especially with the whole day spent napping between the two tacks and some steering and ‘boat-checks’.Good naps too, considering the watch rotation was extended to 2 hours. One could get some real reading or sleeping between the exercise of tacking ship. After swim call…more naps before supper. Yeah, almost spa like.


At last…quiet, calm as we head up the Potomac

At 4 AM this morning, after 34 hours of steady motoring for a distance of 268 nautical miles (7.8 knot average) against a steady 25 to 30 knots of wind, PRIDE was able to stop motoring at the Patuxent River and sail into the Potomac River after breakfast this morning.

The above represents an atypical grind for PRIDE. Very fortunately, itineraries established for PRIDE usually enable her to sail more than half of all her transits. But in this instance, as in a small number of instances over the more than two decades of scheduling PRIDE, it was necessary to push PRIDE along with her engines most of the distance between New York and Washington D.C. because the weather was not only contrary for the overall direction of travel, but strongly so.

Right now, the peace of having the engines off is almost shattering for the absence of the muted grinding roar of two turbo-charged 4-cylinder engines heard down below and the constant buffeting blast of 25 to 30 knots of wind one received while on deck. The lack of motion due to the virtually calm Potomac River also provides a near unreal bliss of ease for any effort to move around the ship. The transit along the New Jersey Coast was a jerky heaving motion that could often send one to their knees or lurching heavily to the side. While there was a respite from motion during the transit up the upper Delaware Bay, through the C&D Canal and down the upper Chesapeake Bay, the main body of the Chesapeake Bay created a definite hobby horsing motion as a result of 25 to 30 knots of southerly wind all last night.

But after all of the above, PRIDE is not only now sailing in some friendly wind, she is on target to make the scheduled Tuesday 4 AM lift of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which crosses the Potomac River at Alexandria, VA. To be sure, the Route 95 traffic that will crossing the bridge at that hour will not be pleased!!! But at least it is a lift that won’t be happening between 5 AM and 11 PM.

PRIDE just spent a week in Manhattan as guest of Denis Connor’s North Cove Marina, managed by the Manhattan Sailing Club. She was there to participate in the New York Classic Yacht Regatta over Columbus Weekend and remained the following week to host an evening reception for Visit Baltimore, a tourism arm of the City of Baltimore, and to do a number of public day-sails to raise revenue for Pride of Baltimore, Inc. There was no wind for the Classic Yacht Regatta, but the weather was unseasonably warm and dry, so it was a pleasant day on the water for the 35 regatta guests on each of the three race days of the weekend.  The ship was filled to capacity for each race, representing a successful weekend of revenue raising business for Pride, Inc. through the direct use of PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II. Later in the week there was a lot of rain and wind during the scheduled day-sails, as a result those were cancelled. But the Visit Baltimore reception last Tuesday evening experienced very pleasant weather indeed, along with a spectacular view of Jersey City across the Hudson River during the evening sunset.

PRIDE’s scheduled departure of North Cove last Friday was delayed due to fresh southerly winds creating a significant contrary sea state along the Jersey Coast. Friday evening a cold front came through as forecast, bringing strong southwest and westerly winds. By Saturday, the sea state along the Jersey shore was down enough, knocked down by the fresh westerly winds, that it was deemed appropriate to depart New York. The loss of 24 hours from the delayed start and the lack of truly westerly winds, meaning that sea state along the Jersey shore was still somewhat robust and winds were still south of west, meant that PRIDE could not sail fast enough through such sea state due to the wind being south of west, and make the speed needed to remain on schedule. So instead, her two engines pushed her along.

There was some serious debate concerning going all the way to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay rather than up the Delaware Bay and through the C&D Canal then down the Chesapeake Bay. There is only an additional 20 odd miles to Washington D.C. using the “outside” route rather than the “inside” route. But the prevalence of the west wind turned out to be much less than originally forecast. Instead there would be additional southerly to southwesterly winds of some strength returning again Sunday afternoon. Those winds would be useful for going up the Chesapeake Bay, but PRIDE would not arrive the mouth of The Bay till early Monday morning, meaning there would be some stout headwinds while still off shore of the DelMarVa Peninsula. Meanwhile the Atlantic sea state persisted and looked like it would only be added to by the return of the southerly winds. By arriving near the mouth of the Delaware Bay around breakfast on Sunday, PRIDE could ride the Delaware flood current all the way up to the C&D Canal, plus catch a favorable “ebb” current thru the canal and down the upper length of the Chesapeake Bay. Turning up the Delaware would also eliminate exposure to the Atlantic sea state. The serious debate ended around 6 AM Sunday as PRIDE approached the mouth of the Delaware Bay.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II