"Farewell to (Tall Ships) Nova Scotia," Two Quaint and Totally Different Towns, and Chasseur – Pride II's Pride and Joy

Tuesday, 31 July, 2012
Pos: 43 21.2’N X 066 42.1’W
Wx: WSW F 2, Seas 1′, Fog
Pride of Baltimore II Motor-Sailing under Mains’l, Gaff Tops’l and Stays’l at 6 knots.

After nearly two weeks in the cold waters and warm hospitality of Nova Scotia, Pride of Baltimore II is bound for Maine and the USA. Since our fully-packed stay in Halifax, and our action-packed passage from the Nova Scotian Capital, the pace took a decidedly more relaxing turn in the Southwestern shore towns of Lunenburg and Shelburne. But our hosts stayed just as welcoming and the visitors to the ship just as excited. Open to the public for two days in both places, Pride II saw more visitors than the total population in each town – 4422 in Lunenburg and 2888 in Shelburne! And while both towns could safely and accurately be described as “quaint,” they are about as different as can be.  

Steeped in the history of Loyalists to the crown fleeing a fledgling America for still British Canada, Shelburne has an almost English feel to it. And the flotilla of private vessels who welcomed Pride II in on Friday afternoon illustrated that they temper their ardent preservation of history with performance modern sailing. A good fit for Pride II. On arrival, the local Longboat Society, who maintain and drill with a pair of 27′ replica Bounty-style longboats, hosted a reception aboard in full 18th Century attire. With the rest of the fleet delayed by weather and Pride II there alone, they Society regaled us with the history of their town, featuring seven generations of the Cox family building fishing vessels, from schooners to dories to power-driven boats. The buildings of the Cox shipyard are all a museum now, immaculately preserved and giving the town an almost movie set quality along the waterfront. Dozens of people in traditional costume or pirate garb frequently firing off replica weapons only added to the picture.

Though small, Shelburne was certainly cozy and welcoming, from the initial flotilla to the sparse crowd on the dock to see our departure. Once off the dock, we shut down straight away, set the foretops’l and fired port guns in salute, then ran down the harbor on a Northeast breeze. The harbor itself seemed loath to let us leave, presenting us with a Southerly just before we cleared the outer reaches, and forcing us to short tack our way out beyond the rocky headlands. But it is, in fact, “Farewell to Nova Scotia” for us. 

But let’s not forget about the middle port in our Canadian foray – Lunenburg, a fishing town with an active working waterfront full of trawlers and draggers, all against a museum-like backdrop of Victorian houses and traditional ships. Homeport to Canada’s iconic schooner Bluenose II (currently being rebuilt), she is also the home of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. The museum has excellent exhibits and historic ships, but the thing it truly captures is the spirit of the town’s seagoing history. And modern day adventurers can hail at the offices for the world-ranging barque Picton Castle, a ship whose exotic voyaging, international crew and preservation of traditional seamanship perpetuate Lunenburg’s connection to the sea.

The sea is truly in the blood there – against a background of seven tall ships, the mooring field south of the waterfront was littered with local traditional small craft. On Wednesday night they were all underway for racing or fun, and Pride II’s crew was even invited to borrow a dory schooner appropriately named Miscreant. Post sailing, racing or not, all hands are called to the Malagash Harbor Yacht Club for burgers and beers.

Perhaps the most perfect yacht club in all the world, the Malagash’s Clubhouse consists of two rafts pinned together – one with a small shack and one with a barbeque grill – on a mooring in the harbor. Membership is granted on arrival, the dress code encourages shorts and bare feet, and access is only by boat. Looking around at a fleet of twenty or so traditional craft rafted up to the “club,” I found myself thinking a person could say they were raised “Lunenburg” in the same way they might say they were raised Catholic, or Jewish, or Presbyterian. Seafaring is not a pastime in Lunenburg, it is a cultural imperative.

And among those rafted boats was Pride II’s own Chasseur. Named with an historic nod to Thomas Boyle’s famous privateer, and often called “the world’s most expensive deck-box,” Chasseur has certainly been a bit underutilized in her life. The crew is too busy, the schedule too tight, the water too murky to risk a scum line on her white hull. All these, while often true, have kept Chasseur from being used to expand the seamanship of many Pride II sailors. After all, much of what a sailor needs to know can be best learned in a small, open boat.

But Nova Scotia saw a rebirth of Chasseur. Rigged “on the hip” at our Halifax dock in order to help clear some deck space for the relatively steep gangway, she tempted more than a few crew, myself included, to take her out. So in she went, and after a night of swelling, I bailed her quick and took her for a row around George’s Island as a morning work-out. Small enough to be single-handed, yet spacious enough to hold six, she’s been rowed and sailed more in the last week than she has in my four and more years with Pride II. Both the boat and the crew are happier for it. She’s been used for R&R, physical fitness, crew training and development, and even as transportation when we showed up in style to Shelburne’s waterfront crew party.

It’s good to show her off. Her full, buoyant lap-straked hull in sharp contrast to the hard-chined and flat bottomed dories of Nova Scotia, she is pleasing to both the sailor and the on-looker. Both her hull and her cotton sail are older than all our deckhands, yet she sails with all the life and joy of a laughing child.

After half a dozen rows in her, I finally took her for a sail Sunday afternoon, in a moderate Nor’easter and a light rain. Partly out of curiosity, and partly to settle a debate with Bosun Elizabeth Foretek, I forewent the rudder and tiller, maneuvering Chasseur only by sail trim and shifting weight. Those of you skeptical as to the existence of magic should try this. Constantly adjusting her trim, often standing up with the sheet in hand and the feel of her progress under my feet through her sole boards; she demanded to be sailed like a windsurfer or a planing dingy. For steering she responded to a foot placed forward or aft, a step to leeward or by hiking out with my feet tucked under a thwart in the gusts, keeping her flat to keep her from rounding up. Then the challenge of tacking – ducking to leeward and nearly diving for the bow, standing up in front of the mast and pushing her lee rail almost under water with my foot, then scampering over thwarts to the stern sheets so her head would pay off onto the next tack. Some might say physics, but in the misty rain of Shelburne Harbor, it felt like magic.

She requires constant tinkering, just like her “mother ship” Pride II. So, good for the crew to be out and tinkering, practicing the finer details of the craft we focus so intently on aboard the schooner herself. And fitting, as we enter the thick of the War of 1812 Bicentennial, that Chasseur should be so reborn, and once again teaching us all a thing or two about real sailing.

All best,

Captain Jamie Trost and the “States” bound crew of Pride of Baltimore II (and Chasseur)


Reaching for New England

29 September, 2011
Pos: 42 55.2’N x 067 46.0’W
Wx: SxW F5, Seas 3-5′ Overcast

Pride of Baltimore II left Lunenburg yesterday morning after a few great days of revelry with the crews of two great schooners and one outstanding barque. From the time we secured and cleared back into customs on Sunday night, there was a sense of excitement along the Lunenburg waterfront – already a-thrum with commercial fishing fleets, a pair of twin cruising schooners under construction, Picton Castle’s Bosun School in session and the Canadian Icon Bluenose II being refit. With Lynx, Highlander Sea and Pride II added to the mix, you could scarcely turn around without seeing a postcard worthy shot.

To celebrate the good fortune of having a hefty gathering of schooners in town, Captain Dan Mooreland, the talented staff of Windward Isles trading company, and the eager crew of Picton Castle hosted all us visiting Americans to a barbeque on Monday night. This was the single biggest gathering of sailors outside a Tall Ships event I’ve seen in quite awhile, and a great time for all. Many thanks to Captain Mooreland and all the Picton folks for all their hospitality.

Our unexpected and welcome stop, however, had to end. Wednesday morning greeted us with a chill more characteristic of Autumn in Nova Scotia, and we needed make tracks for the US before the wind also turned a more characteristic Southwesterly. Lynx and Highlander Sea had made great show in their departures by sailing off the dock – Lynxeven backed off the dock using her foretops’l – and so there was little choice but to follow suit.

Being rafted to Picton Castle, even with her yards braced up and her davits swung in, presented particular a particular challenge to sailing off. But fortunately, we were able to send an offshore line across the slip to government wharf. The crew pulled Pride II away from Picton Castle by hand, set the stays’l, and then hoisted the foretops’l to the chant of “Thank you Picton!” and we were away. But we weren’t totally gone until we saluted Lunenburg with a proper four guns.

That was yesterday morning at 1000 ADT. Pride II has been sailing since, sometimes slowly, but for the middle part of today, the increasing Southeasterly going Southerly had us holding 12 knots fairly often. But it isn’t just sailing for fun. The wind, as forecast, has already veering and there is little hope of making a landfall anywhere South of Portland, Maine without going into the teeth of a strong breeze. So we’re driving Pride II for all she’s worth toward New England.

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

Too Busy for Blogs and Setting Up for Southerlies

22 September 2011
Pos: 48 12.2’N x 064 02.9’W
Wx: South F 1, seas calm, 3/8 Stratus in the Southeast Distance

When I last wrote and said we had sailing to do, I had no idea how intense an understatement I was making. We had a forecast, past the pilot station, for Southwest and West winds of decent strength, and I was guessing that with the current, we’d be able to sail. I never expected that we’d see stretches longer than a mere gust into gale force, or that we’d have Pride of Baltimore II surging up to 13 knots over the bottom.

But that’s how the story played out. Sailing through the night of the 20th to 21st under Fores’l, Stays’l, Foretops’l, Jib, T’gallant and Stuns’l, we made great progress with a West-Southwest breeze. As the forecast called for a Westerly veer, we didn’t set the Mains’l to minimize the work of the crew in wareing ship – this is the action of turning the stern of the vessel through the eye of the wind. Commonly, it is called gybing these days, but though the terms are nearly synonymous, gybing is what you do with a fore-and-aft rigged sail such as Pride II’s Mains’l, while wareing is the action of the ship itself.

Whichever way you slice it, making that maneuver with Pride II’s 2200 square feet of Mains’l is a lot of work. So we left it off and were still making seven and eight past the steep to shores along the South side of the river. Our friends on Highlander Sea — an historic Boston Pilot Schooner on her way from Port Huron, Michigan to Gloucester, Massachusetts in search of a potential new owner – were either in sight or trackable on radar through the night and appeared hull-down (with only the sails visible) the next morning well to the North of us.

After completing what seemed like our last ware at 1000, we finally did set the Mains’l in the hopes of using the Westerly to get clear out of the river and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence before the forecast calm had us motoring. With the Mains’l set Pride II was constantly over 10 knots and topped off at 13.2. As if competing with our increased sail plan, however, the winds in the lower river exceeded their forecast strength and got up around gale force. The combination of wind increase, wind shift and moderately confused sea was making Pride II more than a handful, so the Mains’l came in around 1500.

The sail suffered some minor damage from chafing on a ratboard while we took it in, so Pride II crew have been working ardently on a patch repair during all the daylight hours, and sometimes with headlamps at night too. Having worked for a sailmaker, I often find myself one of the few aboard who can effect such repairs, but fortunately for us, there are several crew who are handy with a needle and thread. Having sailed aboard Picton Castle under Captain Dan Mooreland, deckhands Susie Ordway and Meredith Spratt are well versed in sailmaking, as the seamanship training program aboard Picton Castle includes teaching sailmaking skills by actual making sails for the ship by hand. Alex Peacock and Barbara Krasinski also did some fine sewing, as the job was traded off between the watches.

Fortunately, we haven’t needed the Mains’l for the last 20 hours. Unfortunately, we haven’t had enough wind to use any of the sails for the last 10 of those hours. We lost the breeze and started motoring around midnight last night, having nearly reached the official mouth of the St. Lawrence at Cap Rosiers. Stacked on top of our exciting sail from Hamilton, which included sailing the entire American section of the river (except for maneuvering in and out of the Iroquois lock), our performance the last few days means Pride II sailed nearly every mile of the river where she was not required to carry a pilot. Hats off to the crew and guest crew for all the work involved in maneuvering her along those waters.

Now, out in the Gulf, we are set up to make use of the Southerlies and Southwesterlies in the forecast. In our motoring so far we have hugged the Western shore of the Gulf, and now have Pride II set up with a favorable slant to lay a course to East Point on Prince Edward Island without tacking. As I write, the breeze is teasing its way up to sailing strength and we’re ready make good use of it.

All best,
Captain Jamie Trost and the searching for wind Crew of Pride of Baltimore II

A Break in the Weather

Thursday, June 16, 2011
PRIDE II…finally able to depart Lunenburg bound for Rochester, New York.

For three days PRIDE II has been weathering out contrary weather on the Atlantic shore of Nova Scotia. But it looks now like the weather is changing and PRIDE II will be able to depart early Thursday for her destination of Rochester, New York.

So…what has been this contrary weather? And what is Lunenburg like for a weather bound vessel?

The weather has been a pretty consistent easterly wind of between 20 and 35 knots caused by a low pressure area south of Nova Scotia. Low pressure zones in the northern hemisphere rotate counter clockwise. As a result, being as there is a low to the south of Nova Scotia, there are winds rotating from east to west north of the center of the low, blowing along the Nova Scotia  shore, setting up sea swells of 2-3 meters…6 to 10 feet…coming from the east as well. For PRIDE II to proceed towards the Great Lakes, she must head east from Lunenburg. The easterly conditions are impossible to motor into without using a prodigious amount of fuel and risking damage to PRIDE II by pounding into the waves. Not motoring directly into the weather means zig-zagging first to the south, then to the north, while trying to gain distance to the east against the wind and the swell. Trying this also presents a lot of wear and tear on the ship and crew. In the end…it is my experience that it is better to wait…even at the risk of appearing at our next obligation behind schedule. Meanwhile, it is looking like the waiting might provide a bit of a favorable push along our way after we turn north at Cape Canso to cross the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This “push” might come in the form of another low system sliding east-southeastward from the bringing south to southeast winds ahead of it starting late on Friday. It might be that this new low pattern could track in such a way as to help PRIDE make a speedy run through the Gulf and around the Gaspe Peninsula. If such were to happen…maybe we can capture back much of our delay and not be altogether late into Rochester. The proof of this will be in the doing. But we can surely hope!

For any not-for-profit managed vessel like PRIDE II Lunenburg is a terrific port stop. There is a kind of language of special understanding about such vessels as PRIDE II in Lunenburg by many of those that live and work here. The commercial fishing vessel services understand the needs that a vessel like PRIDE II has and how they can help during our stay in Lunenburg. For instance Adams and Knickle generously provided complimentary docking with electricity and fresh water. The office of PICTON CASTLEprovided access to internet and local knowledge and transportation to run errands…as well the fax machine to complete Canadian Customs paper processing. Of course there are recreational establishments that know how to satiate the mariners thirst and hunger. There is also interesting marine history to be seen here…the rebuilding of the Canadian Fishing Schooner BLUENOSE II and The Fisheries Museum…if the captain provides time off to the crew so they might see such. Lunenburg is also home to the building of local small schooners…two by the company that operates the PICTON CASTLE…as well the sailing of them…kept on moorings out in the harbor during the summer, ready for immediate sailing and easily visible to PRIDE II’s crew as they work at tending to PRIDE II while waiting for a break in the weather.

But as nice as it is to visit and linger in Lunenburg…there is a job to do elsewhere…and time is slipping by. With the break in the weather…it is time to go. So off we go in pursuit of the job PRIDE II is tasked with doing.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II