Tides, Again

20 September 2011
47 21.4’N x 070 15.5’W
Wx: SW F3, Light Rain

Some say all good things must end – casting off lines and heading out from Montreal yesterday at 1230, the crew of Pride of Baltimore II were in full agreement. Canada’s little piece of Europe had plenty to interest and even overwhelm the crew ashore, while Pride IIwas herself a spectacle for 8,789 visitors to Les Grand Voiliers sur les Quais. After brilliant weather for the opening Parade of Sail, things turned to chilly rain for Thursday, keeping all but the hardiest away from the ships. The visit brought a crescendo of improving weather which crested Sunday with clear skies, calm winds and temperatures near 70 degrees. A perfect late summer day in a perfect port!

With good weather continuing through yesterday, we went through the hustle and scramble of getting Pride II ready for sea again. Customs forms and currency exchanging, packing up and stowing of all the in-port gear while turning on the weather fax and sat phone. With the westbound vessels – the Brig Niagara, the brigantines St. Lawrence II and Pathfinder, and the schooner Challenge – all held up for traffic in the Seaway Locks until noon, we made our departure together. This unintentional spectacle once more drew eager crowds to the dock – we saluted before racing down the current under the Jacques Cartier Bridge. Our sister Privateer Lynx was off the dock just after us and the schooner Highlander Sea locked through just ahead of our departure. The three schooners are all bound for coastal Massachusetts, and have a number of shared friendships among the crews, so we’re sure to be in contact as we make our way out the river and through the gulf.

It is good to be traveling with friends, so to speak. As I write this, Pride II is well beyond Quebec, having past its enormous Citadel just before 0400, and into the lonely stretches of the lower river. The shores are lined with high wooded mountains and washed soft with the light rain. There is scant population along the shore. In some sections, only the buoyage in the river gives indication that we aren’t traveling with Champlain or Cartier some 400 years ago. This landscape is at once beautiful and foreboding, settled little since the days of exploration.

And in it Pride II is experiencing her first taste of tides in exactly three months. And they are no small tides. Even fighting the weaker flood current has slowed us down over two knots, and when the ebb begins, we’ll gain three or four in some sections. The return to salt, or at least brackish, water has her feeling more buoyant and springy, even though the draft changes a mere two inches with the density of water. The Lakes are behind Pride II now, for another year. We bid them a fond adieu, but have no time now to reminisce. Boston is still 1000 miles off, and we have sailing to do.

All best,
Jamie Trost and getting saltier by the minute crew of Pride of Baltimore II

St. Lawrence Sailing

15 September 2011

Pos: Alongside Jacques Cartier Basin, Montreal, Quebec
Wx: Overcast, cool, French

It is physically possible for Pride of Baltimore II’s passage from Hamilton, Ontario to the Iroquois Lock in the St. Lawrence River to have included more sailing, but only just. Having sailed off the dock in Hamilton Monday morning, we were less than a mile from the head of Burlington Bay, and when the foretops’l finally came in on Tuesday, 225 nautical miles and 27 hours later, the Iroquois lock was in sight. That’s an average speed of 8.25 knots. Our passage across the Lake took less than 20 hours, and at one stage the Vessel Traffic Control center at Seaway Sodus was concerned that at 11.5 knots we were going TOO FAST and would get to the Snell Lock before a pilot could be scheduled to meet us!

We assured the folks at the Seaway we would be slowing down once out of the open Lake, past Cape Vincent and into the river. We did, but only barely – with the breeze still favorable and help from the following current we carried on into the Thousand Islands area under four lowers and foretops’l.  Near the town of Clayton, NY, we loaded our starboard guns for a salute. Earlier this season, I spent a week in Clayton while serving as relief Captain of Lynx, and discovered the town both loves ships of all kinds and is chock full of generous and hospitable folk. Event organizer Michael Folsom contacted Pride II via text message and alerted the town we’d be passing by, and Mayor Norma Zimmer, who sailed aboard Lynx from Ogdensburg to Clayton with me in the spring, was standing on the dock. We feathered up close enough to say hello and pass a warning that we’d be saluting, fired, then bore off to keep reaching down the river.

After passing Clayton, I began pondering just how far we could carry on under sail. We were making 8-10 knots, faster than we’d likely be motoring and the course up the river required just a few maneuvers, waring ship along the bends of the river to reduce the risk of accidentally gybing the mains’l. In the spring, I had the good fortune of being able to sail Lynx UP the river from Ogdensburg, NY to Clayton with a 25 knot North Easter, and then sail from Clayton half way across Lake Ontario to Rochester a week later. This gave no small personal motivation to be able to make a “round trip” of the upper river by sailing at least to Ogdensburg.

And Pride II did exactly that, carrying four lowers and the foretops’l to within sight of the Ogdensburg Prescott Bridge, before reducing to just the foretops’l. With more current in that section of the river, plus the wind increasing to near 40 knots, we kept making 10 knots until sighting Iroquois Lock, taking in the tops’l and firing up engines to Slow down. Unlike our approach to the SOO Locks in July, there was no safe way to sail into Iroquois with the breeze being what it was. In fact, it was workout enough to get Pride II pointed in the right direction and slowed down enough under power.

Once clear of the lock, we took advantage of the breeze, re-set the foretops’l and sailed clear to the American locks, right at the Canadian border. After securing precariously at the approach wall of the Eisenhower Lock for passing traffic, we got underway again at sunset, dropped down to the lower level and secured at the Snell Lock approach wall to wait for our pilot. Pride II has never required a pilot in the St. Lawrence Seaway before, but new Canadian regulations make it necessary, so we were forced to coordinate our passage with the 12 hour advance notice the Pilots require. By the time we boarded our first Pilot, the breeze had died down and the passage was made entirely under power. With no traffic to hold us up, we made the last lock, St. Lambert, at 1041, exchanged for a Harbor Pilot, and waited at anchor for the rest of the fleet to arrive and start the Parade of Sail.

As if on schedule for the parade, the skies cleared and the breeze became a nearly sailable SW. Not that sailing from the Longueuil Anchorage into the Jacques Cartier Basin would be possible except with ideal conditions – the Lachine Rapids, which the first locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway circumvent, have the current on the approach to the Basin running at 6 knots. The bouys to mark the channel have to be specially made so they aren’t swept under water and low horsepower vessels have a slow transit of the area. With thousands of people watching the procession of six sailing vessels, the slow approach must have created a sense of suspense. At 1630 sharp, Pride II ended the anticipation by firing a salute just off the basin. We even shifted a gun from port to starboard to add flair.

With all ships secure at the dock, we’re ready for a weekend of heavy traffic. Last year over 9,000 people came to see Pride II in just three days, and this year we’re here for four. I hope the crew have been brushing up on their French.

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

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