Hats off to Halifax, Eagle Steals our Broom, Tattooed at the Citadel and What we do “When No One’s Looking."

25 July 2012
Pos: Alongside the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, Lunenburg Nova Scotia
Wx: North Force 1, 5/8 Stratus

After an adventurous sail to windward along the Nova Scotian coast, Pride of Baltimore II is snug in the quintessentially Canadian Maritime Seaport of Lunenburg. Arriving in town along with tops’l schooners Lynx, Unicorn and Amistad we joined Larinda, Providence and Roseway for the second port of Tall Ships Nova Scotia.

Known around the fleet for its hospitality, Lunenburg follows hot on the heels of a splendid stay in bustling Halifax. From our grandstanding arrival on Tuesday, through the spectacle of an opening ceremony highlighted with as much Navy Brass as any OpSail occasion, to impressive crew events at the imposing Citadel, Halifax hosted us well. We hope the 8,900 visitors to Pride II feel we returned the favor.

As final destination in the Tall Ships Challenge series, Halifax hosted the awards ceremony for races three and four. Pride II was first again for the “Etch-a-Sketch” event of Race Three, but the US Coast Guard Barque Eagle edged us out in the “Sprint to Halifax.” As a time-trial, this fourth race was based on the corrected average speeds of the vessels over an eight-hour period. Eagle’s was .24 knots faster than Pride II’s. With our own uncorrected average being 10.23 knots, there isn’t much we could have done to push Pride II harder, but Eagle’s strategy was to wait for the breeze to build before starting their run. So no broom for a clean sweep of the series by Pride II – well done and well raced, Eagle!

Also, well done to all regiments and bands who performed the 1812 Military Tattoo at Halifax’s Citadel on Sunday night. A tour de force of fifes, drums, bagpipes and historic weapons demonstrations celebrated Canada’s rich history and highlighted the 198 years of peace and friendship between our nations. Stealing the show were the 78th Highlanders, who Pride II had the pleasure of hosting for a reception earlier in the weekend. Following their example, we did our best to close out Monday’s Parade of Sail in style as we brought up the rear of 21 ship procession around Halifax Harbour.

Not that putting on a show is new territory for Pride II. For 24 years, we’ve been striving not just to impress dockside visitors with the sleek beauty of the ship, but to inspire and awe on-lookers from shore by highlighting the characteristic nimble elegance of the Baltimore Privateers she so thoroughly represents.

Our arrival and departure from Halifax are prime examples – outbound, we carried easy sail to stay at the required parade speed of five knots until we made the final run along the downtown waterfront and cracked on the mains’l and jib to charge out to sea. But on arrival day, with the Harbour mostly to ourselves, we barreled in under all plain sail, made a few passes by downtown at seven knots, then in a barrage of four guns took in sail and rounded up close enough to our wharf to pass lines.

We hoped to impress, and the gathered crowd on the pier seemed to confirm it. In fact, one onlooker even said “Good show. But what do you guys do when no one’s looking, you still use the sails?”

The only answer I could give was this: “When no one’s looking? That’s when we do all the REALLY cool stuff.”

Sounds glib, but it’s true. Our extended experiment in live action nautical archeology is on-going. Thrashing our way out of Halifax, we noticed a slight tear in the lower section of our fores’l, so we reefed it to contain the damaged portion and sailed on, beating our way out to sea as if it were 1812, and at the end of the day, sailing on the anchor at 23:45 in Rose Bay, eight miles from Lunenburg. Too bad that no one could see us, because handling 8000 square feet of sail in the pitch dark and rounding up safely to drop the hook someplace we’d never seen before was a particularly handy piece of seamanship by the crew.

All best,
Captain Jamie Trost and the smart sailing Crew of Pride of Baltimore II

Etch-a-Sketch in Cape Cod Bay, A Place for the Birds, Tide Bound in a Rocky River and Waiting Winds of Nova Scotia

23 July 2012

Pos: Alongside the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Wx: South Force 2, Clear

Pride of Baltimore II has had a busy interval since her last Blog; and it was full of racing, anchorages, tides, fog and more racing. Eleven days ago we cleared through the Cape Cod Canal, and by mid-morning began our time trial for the third race of the Tall Ships Challenge. Prepared for an evening breeze, we nonetheless jumped to take advantage of the unexpected mid-morning Northerly wind, and worked to keep a close reach across Cape Cod Bay. Shifting conditions through the day had the breeze up and down, and Pride II’s track line across the chart looked like child’s scribble.

But just when we thought we’d finished our eight hours and started sailing North toward Portsmouth, the anticipated Southerly came up; we set the stuns’l and shook off the old track like clearing an etch-a-sketch, carrying on through the night under all plain sail plus. While no sled ride, our second trial netted us an average speed of over six knots, and was good enough for Pride II’s third first-place finish in the Tall Ships Challenge series.

Post race, we anchored off Appledore Island, the southernmost of Maine’s incredible count of islands, at the invitation of Captain Kevin Wells, who is Senior Captain for the research facility there. Having sailed in the Tall Ship fleet for years, Kevin is always eager to welcome visiting vessels. The SSV Corwith Cramer and Schooner Harvey Gamage had already arrived, and Maine Maritime Academy’s Arctic Exploring Schooner Bowdin arrived shortly after we did. We made for a busy little mooring field off an island that is nearly overrun with gulls. All forays ashore are well warned that the island’s sea birds will aggressively defend their young and their turf. Some of the researchers even wear bicycle helmets adorned antennae made from tennis balls and coat hangers to keep the dive-bombing beaks at bay. Talk about angry birds!

A quiet night at anchor ended with Venus and Jupiter beaming bright at 0400 hours as we steamed for Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This classic New England Seaport offers singular difficulties in dealing with current, and so our four pre-festival day sails were hosted in the outer section of the river off New Castle, NH. On Friday, we boarded another sold-out boat for a Parade of Sail in concert with the Sloop Providence, a replica of John Paul Jones’ first command in the Continental Navy, and the Gundalow Company’s newly constructed Piscataqua, a traditional Piscataqua River cargo vessel. After the short, busy trip up the river, we secured across from the picturesque Strawberry Banke Museum and opened to thousands of eager public.

Few ports are as tide bound as Portsmouth, and so when the high slack water came at 1130 Monday morning, both Pride II and Providence were away with it. Saluting the town on our way out, we carried some sail to complete the show. Sadly, it was just for show – the Gulf of Maine was like a mill pond – a foggy, soggy mill pond all the way to Cape Sable at the West end of Nova Scotia. The last time trial was only to be sailed in Nova Scotian waters, and the breeze seemed to be waiting for us there. At 1900 Tuesday evening, we cracked on sail until everything was set and drawing, and at 2000 started our race. This time it was quite a ride. Fog alternately encircled and released us, passing squalls glimmered lightning through the vapor, and Pride II raced on in 18-22 knots of wind and a building sea, averaging 10.23 knots for the eight-hour race, at one stage even surging up to 12.3. A good showing, but the USCG Barque Eagle was also racing, and the strong favorable breeze makes her a strong contender. Fingers are crossed as we await the results.

For now, after a full sail and four gun salute entrance, we’re snug in at Halifax enjoying the expected warmth of Nova Scotian hospitality and the surprising warmth in the Nova Scotian weather.

Farewell Newport, Hello Lady ~ LADY MARYLAND, that is

9 July 2012
Pos: 41°33.1’N x 070°47.8’ W
Wx: South Force 4, 2/8 Cirrus, 3/8 Stratus
Pride of Baltimore II sailing at 6.6 knots toward the Cape Cod Canal under all Plain Sail and T’Gallant.

Pride of Baltimore II has left the hustle and bustle of a busy and successful festival in Newport, Rhode Island astern and is now at sea once more. After arriving in grand style on Thursday 5 July, we opened for tours Friday and hosted nearly 9,000 visitors to the ship in a short three days. Busy, but not too busy for the crew to experience the depth and breadth of sailing, history, and sailing history of Newport. As hometown of War of 1812 hero Oliver Hazard Perry, victor of the Battle of Lake Erie, Newport has strong 1812 connections, and those are especially poignant to me, as Perry made his mark in my home waters of Lake Erie, and I grew up in the shadow of his legend in Erie, PA. Today, Tall Ships America, co-host of the festival with Ocean State Tall Ships fittingly has their offices in Perry’s home.

Modern Newport has its mind clearly focused on modern yachting, but its history is apparent on every block, and from every era. The imposing New York Yacht Club stands proud at the harbor entrance and serves as a constant reminder of the grand era of America’s Cup Racing, and layers upon layers of historic and recent racing memorabilia can be found in the shops along America’s Cup Way and Thames Street.

Our fleet of traditional sail made it’s own show today, Parading along the East Shore of Narragansett Bay from Castle Hill to the Newport Naval Station and back to sea. Fourteen ships in all, and when many back at our end of the Parade ducked back into Newport to disembark passengers or simply call it a day, Pride II was left alone to bring up the rear. No longer bound to the Parade speed, we quit motor sailing and ghosted out the Bay with aid from an ebb tide. Then a Southerly shift had us scrambling to trim sail and Pride II was alive again, beating to windward across a calm sea as Baltimore Schooners were made to do. And as if drawn by the Chesapeake like conditions, our little sister, Lady Maryland, also two weeks out from Baltimore, appeared to the southwest.

It would be un-neighborly, we thought, not to sail a board back to the West and say hello. The breeze would hold, Pride II was fast enough to make up a bit of time, especially time spent to hail old shipmates and friends. So we tacked away from our rhumbline and for a quarter of an hour had a “gam,” a chance meeting of ships on the open water. Lady Maryland reached down from windward and we put Pride II’s fore tops’l and t’gallant aback, effectively throwing the brakes on, to let her pass under our stern and to Leeward. We exchanged salutes, then braced up and slid along with her. Eager students gazed out over her rail at us while our guest crew took a curious look at this “other” Baltimore Schooner.

Among the crews of both ships, thick with old bonds, not much was said. Not much needed to be. We’d weathered squalls and sailed through gales together, froze our way through winter maintenance and up-rig with each other. Now, on a sun-speckled afternoon with the breeze running its fingers across the water, all we needed was to share a nod and a knowing smile that told each other all those rainy nights and long cold days were worth this chance to stumble upon each other and show off our ships. In our world of near constant voyaging, that’s enough. We tacked around to get on our way and Lady Maryland sailed on to her anchorage.

Fair winds, friends, we’ll see you back home.

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

A Nimble Dance in the Shadow of a Storied Heroine

3 July 2012
Pride of Baltimore II
Pos: Alongside Rowes Wharf, Boston Harbor
Wx: NE F 1, WARM

Today marks Pride of Baltimore II’s fourth day as part of the OpSail Festivities in Boston, home of the world’s most storied square-rigger, USS Constitution. That’s right I said it, Constitution. Fans of HMS Victory, before you take up arms, hear me out. Constitution is more STORIED, because her fame doesn’t arise from a singular engagement or fleet action, but from a string of victories, all of them fought on her own, one of them against two English warships and exactly none of them as part of a line of battle. She embodies American individualism and captures the romantic allure of singularity and isolation on the open sea. Also, unlike Victory’s fame and its inextricable link to Admiral Horatio Nelson’s bold actions and heroic death at Trafalgar, Constitution’s legacy transcends her Captains, even though everyone who was anyone in the early American Navy was in command of her at some stage.

Still not convinced, Victory-ites? Well, while he didn’t sail aboard her during the War of 1812, we’d like to point out that perhaps her most dashing commander was a native of Maryland, Captain Stephen Decatur of Sinepuxent. And Nelson himself declared Decatur’s boarding of the USS Philadelphia “The most bold and daring act of the age.”

And in the presence of this Naval Legend and heroine of 1812, what better thing to do than show off the qualities of Pride II in concert with her sister Privateer Lynx in a series of “Battle Sails.” These mock-engagements, long a staple among the Traditional Sailing ships of the West Coast, have become relatively frequent between Lynx and Pride II in the last two years. The format is simple – board a ship full of passengers each, sail out to designated area, and spend the next hour or so desperately trying to out maneuver each other while blasting away blank rounds from your replica guns, all in the name of fun and living history.

All joking aside, it is an excellent opportunity for people to experience a piece of maritime heritage, to be in the thick of things, feeling and hearing the concussive and near deafening reports of the armaments, waiting through the long anticipation as shots are lined up for the precise moment, tasting the black powder smoke as it lingers between the ships. And for the crews, a chance to exercise their ships figuratively and literally – feinting and dodging these terrifically nimble schooners around each other through nearly countless tacks and wares. Aboard Pride II, a chance to use the guns, which often times are just simply in the way while we sail the living snot out of the ship. The fact that traffic and security concerns have required the whole engagement to take place in a 350 yard by 250 yard box mean that maneuvers are quick and constant.

Of course, there is the burning question each time – “Who won?” Everybody. Nobody. Both Ships. Choosing a winner for a battle sail would be like choosing a winner for a game of Frisbee. Or picking one swimmer out of a synchronized swimming team. Or a single acrobat at Cirque du Soleil. You’re getting my point; it’s a dance, a show, an exhibition. The passengers win for witnessing it, the crews win for getting to put their ships through their paces, Boston wins because half the harbor can see the action. And, if I may wax a bit patriotic on this Independence Eve, America wins, for having such as rich history of strong, proud ships such as Chasseur, Lynx, Pride II and Constitution and such daring and courageous Captains as Stephen Decatur, Issac Hull, Charles Stewart, and of course, Thomas Boyle, who celebrated his 237th birthday just five days ago.

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

PRIDE II ~ The Transformer of Schooners

Wednesday 27 June 2012
Pos: 41 10.7’N X 071 17.9’W
Wx: W F 3-4, Seas 2-4′
Pride of Baltimore II Sailing under All Plain Sail at 7-8 knots

Yesterday, I wrote about the various options available for sail combinations aboard Pride of Baltimore II, and narrowed it down to three basic options. Variations among these options mean there are essentially 23 different sail combinations for Pride II to ply the oceans under. That’s more combinations than the ship has bunks. And in two days of sailing from Cape May to Block Island, we’ve run through about a third of them. They have different nicknames, as groups – the “Daysail Combo” of Fores’l, Fore Tops’l, and Stays’l (called such because the ease of use and versatility mean we use is quite a bit on daysails), the self explanatory “Four Lowers,” and similar “Four Lowers and Foretop.” More traditionally, we have “All Plain Sail” which covers everything that’s actually attached to the rig. On top of that we have “The Kites” – T’gallant, Stuns’l and the nearly never used Ringtail.

Fading breezes yesterday afternoon had us set All Plain Sail, plus the T’gallant and carry that plan until around midnight, when we experienced 20-25 knots just forward of the beam. We stripped down to Four Lowers and still charged along through the night at a comfortable 9 knots, with the wind slowly backing to the west. This combination is, as described in yesterday’s blog, Pride II’s most feminine. And while the attribution to masculine and feminine qualities was described yesterday, I realize no real explanation was given. Well, there are at least a dozen to choose from, depending on whom you ask, but only one seems plausible to me. Despite the tradition of referring to all vessels as “she” or “her” in English, the French differentiate, referring to nearly all vessels in the masculine. Except the schooner – La Goélette. Add a few square sails and you get to the “hermaphrodite” tag. If you want to spend countless hours in utter confusion, Google up a discussion board focusing on the term “Hermaphrodite Brig.”

Back aboard Pride II, call her what you will, she’s our girl! And she’s the transformer of tall ships.  From our simple Four Lowers sail plan we’ve been building up with the backing and moderating breeze and are carrying All Plain Sail again, this time plus the T’gallant. Lots of changes for a 36 hour run. Lots of blisters, sweat and bruises for the crew. And we haven’t even tacked or worn ship . . . yet.

All best,
Captain Jamie Trost and the constantly sail changing crew of Pride of Baltimore II

Pride of Baltimore II Sail Diagram

 

Back in the Saddle — The Complex Versatility of PRIDE II

Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Pos: 39 13.5’N x 074 12.3’W
Wx: NxW F 4-5, Seas 3-5′ Clear
Pride of Baltimore II Sailing under Fore Tops’l, Fores’l, Stays’l, and Jib at 9-10 knots

Pride of Baltimore II is back at sea today after a month in her home waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Having relieved Captain Miles yesterday morning in Baltimore, I’m back at sea aboard her for the first time in nine months. Shoreside logistics kept us alongside until after noon yesterday, and our sail out from the Inner Harbor was shortened because the North wind would allow no progress up the narrow channels to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. But this morning at 0426 we secured engines and ran down the Delaware Bay like a thoroughbred horse penned up too long. Now – with a Northwest breeze intent on blowing the summer sky clear of clouds, the Ocean off the Jersey beaches alive and frothy, and six eager guest crew aboard – it’s a fine day to be back “in the saddle.”

I’ve often described the power and drive of Pride II under sail as akin to riding a strong, determined horse, a living thing that will accept direction only from knowing and deliberate hands, and then only grudgingly, and with constant reminders that, while the motivation may be yours, the power is still all hers. And crossing the lively chop at ten knots, she is still a handful. Today, however, the challenge is not how to handle her, but what to mode to sail her in. With her ever sleek Chesapeake Schooner hull, Pride II will make the most of any sailing breeze. The complexity of her Tops’l Schooner rig – sometimes called “hermaphrodite” for incorporating elements of both the more modern fore and aft rig (supposedly booms and gaffs and sails along the centerline are more “feminine”) and the husky, traditional square rig (as the theory goes yards set perpendicular to the centerline are “masculine”) – gives so many combinations of sail she’s almost three ships in one.

In more moderate or more downwind conditions, we’d simply set all sail and go with it, but as Captain Walter Rybka of the Brig Niagara famously said, “You see traditional ships with all of their sails set in two instances: idyllically perfect sailing conditions, and really bad maritime art.” And while today is a fine sailing day, it’s a shade, or a slight wind shift, shy of idyllic. Our other options demand a choice between the huge schooner mains’l and the square fore tops’l, both of which represent the same heeling force on the ship. Truth be told, we’d like to set both, but it’s too windy for that. We opted for the more versatile fore tops’l, hoping for a westerly shift. And we don’t think Pride II looks one bit less elegant and feminine without her mains’l.

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