A Festive Stay in Greenport

Motoring in calm wind down the Atlantic Ocean side of Sandy Hook, New Jersey having just spent the dawn and early morning hours motoring down the East River through Hell Gate and on through New York Harbor and the Verrazano Narrows to the Atlantic.

The Memorial Weekend was spent in a Tall Ship festival in Greenport, NY, out at the end of Long Island. It was the second of four Tall Ship America Tall Ship Challenge Festivals scheduled for this year in commemoration of the Bicentennial of the start to the 1812 War with England. It has been some time since Greenport hosted a half dozen or more sail training vessels. For a small town, they went all out and so did the visiting crowds! The shopping streets were closed to vehicular traffic and the ships were mobbed. Many of the local establishments supported the Town of Greenport’s efforts to host a Tall Ship festival.  A couple of the proprietors we visiting crew got to know commented that no other type of festival drew as many visitors to town. The result of this draw – every proprietor was exhausted along with all of their staff. “You ships are welcome back any time…but don’t come back for three weeks…I need to get some rest!”

The weather was terrific for such a festival as well. Leading up to Memorial weekend there had been 4 or more days of cool & wet weather. Saturday the weather broke into sun and warmth and the crowds came from the full length of Long Island and beyond.

These Tall Ships America Challenges and Festivals are built around some inter-ship competition in the form of voyage racing. The first race of the 2012 series was out of Savannah and was along the Southeast US Coast up towards Frying Pan Shoal off of Cape Fear. PRIDE earned a First in that race. There was one planned out of Greenport. But as luck would have it every festival vessel in Greenport had financial obligations that precluded them participating with the planned race from Greenport down to the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay. As an alternative a “drag race” concept was created as a substitute. I call it the Tall Ship Challenge Sprint Race. Over the four days following Greenport’s Tall Ship Festival each ship will compete with the other ships by finding an opportunity to put as many miles under sail in 6 consecutive hours as they can. The results will be compared and a winner…under their “handicap”…will be identified by the most amount of miles sailed in 6 continuous hours. Each ship can try to do this as many times as they want till midnight on Friday. A vessel can even sail back and forth in a favorable wind slot rather than pick only one single direction to sail for six hours. It will be quite interesting to find out if any vessel does this.

PRIDE’s first stab at this was the sail out of Greenport and westward in Long Island Sound. The wind was just favorable being out of the southwest and fresh at 15 knots with gusts to 20 knots. After starting the “sprint” the wind got gusty and the crew had to strike the jib-top and the main-gaff-top. At the beginning of the afternoon PRIDE snored along at better than 10 knots over the bottom with the aid of the flooding Long Island Sound. Her speed through the water was near 9 knots. Late into the afternoon and into the early evening the current slowed down and even began to flow against PRIDE. Still, she was making better than 7 knots over the bottom while indicating near 8 knots through the water due to some moderation in the wind strength. Not sure when the next sailing 6 hours will occur. This calm is looking like it will last most of today. There is hope of a favorable breeze Thursday further down the Mid Atlantic Coast on our way to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. I hope so, we have some 245 nautical miles to cover by Friday afternoon. So we cannot wait for the wind. It must catch up to us.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Fleet Week New York ~ A Spectacular Spectacle

Pride II behind the Mexican Navy Sail Training Vessel Cuauhtémoc.

Every year the U.S. Navy is welcome to New York Harbor for Fleet Week. “Grey Ships” parade in and visit New York Harbor for several days. This year, in partnership with New York City’s own Operation Sail (OpSail) and to mark the Bicentennial Year of the start of the War of 1812 with England, Fleet Week was kicked off by two maritime parades. The first an international fleet of sail training vessels escorted by American sailing vessels. The second an international fleet of naval ships. The first fleet went up the Hudson River and turned around at the George Washington Bridge and proceeded down the Hudson River. The second fleet waited an hour and then proceeded up the Hudson River meeting the first fleet at the Aircraft Carrier INTREPID. As the two fleets passed each other the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels and other naval air craft flew overhead up the Hudson River.

The wind was light so presented no headaches to the sailing vessels. While cloudy and a bit hazy the visibility was pretty good across the width of the river. All in all the spectacle was spectacular!

Crew enjoying the Parade. 1st Mate Sarah, 2nd Mate John and Deckhand Brandon. Lady Liberty and the Colombian Navy Sail Training Vessel Gloria provide a splendid backdrop.

PRIDE had a number of passengers who booked passage for the parade. Meanwhile PRIDE also had the Guest Crew from Baltimore sailing all of the way to Greenport, NY out at the tip of Long Island. Everyone helped the crew set all the sail. So PRIDE was one of the very few parading vessels that had most of the available sail up. Plus PRIDE had her cannons to pay proper respect to the hosting port of New York. Two guns for the World Financial Center and two guns for the dignitaries and special guests waiting at the Aircraft Carrier INTREPID. And just one more gun for the young kids aboard the Schooner MYSTIC WHALER. The kids were surprised but wanted another shot. The escorting USCG and New York Harbor Police requested no more gun shots. So be it. The guns shots were truly loud and all aboard PRIDE got a big kick out of them.

Now PRIDE is back inside North Cove Marina at the World Financial Center and everything is put away. All crew are now off on personal itineraries for the rest of the day. Tomorrow we get underway soon after 8 AM and head up the East River for the sail through Long Island Sound towards Greenport.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Baltimore to New York ~ Roll with It

It was a misty and rolly transit to New York Harbor’s North Cove Marina this time. PRIDE has made the voyage from Baltimore to New York Harbor at near the same time of year a number of occasions.  At least two times the transit was very fast under sail. This time it was slow and under power. Goes to show how wildly different the voyage can from one year to another.

The situation this year was a stalled low off the New Jersey Coast due to the jet stream formation above. Instead of the fast portion of the Jet Stream it was a slow portion of the Jet Stream that was not dragging the New Jersey Low off shore. As a result, the weather forecast last week was a fresh NE wind off of New Jersey. Not the type of sailing that you take PRIDE into when you need her to go towards the NE!

So…what do you do when it is best not go where you are supposed to go? You do something else for as long as possible hoping the weather will pass by in time to for you to catch up with your voyage plan. In our case we did not depart Baltimore till evening time Saturday…instead of departing in the morning. And when we did depart we went straight to the Eastern Shore south of Rock Hall and anchored around 11 pm. No sailing was lost because there was no wind. So a lot of logistics were taken care of.

After a good nights rest and because the NE wind that was off shore was going to reach the Chesapeake Bay we sailed around all day Sunday and went back to anchor in the same spot. Lots of good sail handling was practiced by the crew…as well some emergency drill practice through launching the small rubber boat for an errand ashore at Kent Island Narrows and recovery of small boat…all under sail.

After dinner and while everyone was resting I spotted a revised weather forecast that indicated we might best get underway rather than wait for Monday. By departing at midnight Sunday it might just be possible to live up to the original voyage plan arriving New York Harbor Tuesday afternoon rather than early Wednesday morning. So after hauling back the anchor at midnight we motored PRIDE up the Chesapeake Bay and through the C&D Canal and down the Delaware Bay to the Atlantic. Sure enough, the Atlantic was a bit roiled up with the previous 2 days of NE wind, but there was no actual wind Monday evening…so with a lot of rolling PRIDE motored on.

This morning we made New York Harbor as originally hoped for. Everyone is very happy not to be rolling around for a while. The Big Apple beckons to all once the work day is over.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

Liaison's in Savannah ~ A Tale of Dedicated Assistance and Good Humor

Early Wednesday morning finds PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II becalmed midway between Winyah Bay and the finish line off the end of Frying Pan Shoal. While we wait for the return of wind, I found myself reflecting upon our new friends ~ PRIDE’s liaison officers from Savannah.

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II’s attendance at Savannah’s Tall Ships Challenge Port Festival was graced by a group of tireless and humorous Savannah volunteer “Liaison” officers….Bill, Lisa, Ray and Stuart. What is a Tall Ship Challenge Port Festival Liaison Officer? Why is that a good thing for a visiting tall ship to a port festival? Port festivals arranged in partnership with Tall Ships America, a membership based national entity that organizes Tall Ship Challenge Race events on behalf of sail training vessels from around the country as well those tall ships visiting from around the world; provide local knowledge assistance to the visiting ships as well crowed control for the festival.

Local knowledge assistance to visiting ships is a wonderful service! Every visiting ship has needs after a voyage. Getting those needs met without the presence or availability of locals to assist can be very challenging. Just having locals helping to determine if a particular need is available locally is a great time saver. For those things that are available locally having volunteers interested and willing to take a member of the crew to fetch the item in question also reduces the ordinary challenge of getting from the ship to the supplier and back. When it was time for PRIDE’s cook Kevin Moran to go shopping, having Savannah’s Liaisons willing and able assistance made the going and shopping for the ship for 10 days of food so much easier than it would have been were PRIDE visiting on her own and did not have local volunteers assisting.

Crowd control for a tall ship festival is a very important thing, particularly at the point of boarding and debarking the visiting tall ships. Vessel gangways are not the same as steps or entryways into and out of buildings. Vessel gangways are typically narrow and often involve temporary steps that are not arranged the same way for a building. The docks a tall ship might be tied to may also involve ramps and steps. Altogether there is a lot of climbing and descending as one goes from shore to ship and back. Hosting large numbers of interested public of all ages, from the toddler to the senior, interested to see the tall ships requires diligent organizing by persons dedicated to the safety of the visiting public, who typically are not familiar with the sometimes awkward process of getting aboard and then back ashore again from a vessel.

All this being understood, what makes the above less than the work it can really be is the personality of volunteer liaisons. In Savannah, Bill, Lisa, Ray and Stuart were significantly more than just persons assigned to assist PRIDE. They were very interested in PRIDE because of what she represented to them. They requested to be PRIDE’s Liaison Officers. That acute personal interest brought out of us crew of PRIDE a strong sense of common interest and this always brings about stories and tales, along with all humor.

Days are long aboard any tall ship. It starts with being woken up for breakfast. While the commute is short…no sooner have you eaten and attended to your person then it is straight to work. Work during a port festival starts with flags and cleaning up the ship, as well organizing for the significant numbers of visitors. Right there on the dock waiting as the crew come on deck for work were PRIDE’s Liaison Officers…ready to attend to any and all of our external needs. During the day they managed the visiting crowds. On average PRIDE was visited by 1,500 persons per day for three full days in a row spanning from 10 in the morning till 6 in the evening. Often PRIDE’s liaisons did not say goodbye for the day until well into the evening. The mutual team work between PRIDE’s crew and her Savannah Liaisons made friends of us all and left memories of a great time in Savannah.

Cheers and much thanks!
Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

A First For Savannah

Pride II Passing Old Fort Jackson (Photo by Megan Dove)

Savannah has never before hosted a Tall Ships Challenge Festival. “Tall Ships Challenge” is annually organized by Tall Ships America, the United States national organization of sail training interests in America. Every year, on a different American coast and shore (East Coast, Great Lakes, West Coast), Tall Ships Challenge is a series of sail training races between hosting ports. In those hosting ports the ships agree to make themselves available for general public visitation and the ports agree to create “happenings” for the trainees.

It sounds sort of simple…but in fact it is very complicated. There are national and local security concerns. There are docking concerns trying to address how to moor the vessels safely where they are both close together and safely and easily accessible to the public. These issues represent government regulation and economic challenges. In Savannah’s case the city has been a major supporter and partner with private sectors in the support of making this Tall Ship Festival come together and be as much an entertainment and education success as possible.

Little “thank you” flourishes to recognize such dedication for a first time ever effort that involved a stunning number of different and sometimes competing interests are as important as it is for the organizers to make all the arrangements for such a complicated event.

Pride of Baltimore, Inc. was able to provide a uniquely special “thank you” to the City of Savannah. The presentation was a formal event inside the chambers of the Mayor and Council (some eight council members) and with representatives from different agencies of the city. Below you can read what my Partner Captain Jamie Trost wrote, and I very slightly edited for smoother flow, for the presentation. We have been repeatedly told by witnesses that Jamie’s and my presentation was extremely appreciated and a singular high point to the start of the festivities. I provide for your judgment what was presented…

“Madam Mayor, Council Members, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that we Captains for Pride of Baltimore II present your fair city with this authentic reproduction of a War of 1812 United States National Ensign in appreciation of the City of Savannah’s role as the inaugural Tall Ships Challenge Port for the War of 1812 Bicentennial. This “Star-Spangled Banner” has flown over Fort McHenry, in the very same spot where the proud flag inspired Francis Scott Key’s famous song, and also over Pride of Baltimore II, the goodwill ambassador for Maryland and the signature sailing reproduction of Baltimore’s famous 1812 Privateers. Ships may come and go with the tides, and our stay in Savannah will be all too short. But let this flag remain to mark the magnificent occasion of a visit by the worlds Tall Ships and to serve as a reminder that, of all the ports commemorating this year’s Bicentennial of America’s struggle to assert her freedoms, Savannah was first.”


What do all of you think? Did we captains do a good job…or what? All kidding aside, on behalf of Pride, Inc. and we two partner captains, I would like to thank Fort McHenry’s Ranger Scott Sheads for his and his team’s efforts to provide us with the gift of a Star-Spangled Banner actual flown over Fort McHenry.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II
Acting Executive Director

Becalmed off Charleston, SC

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
70 nautical miles to go to entrance of the Savannah River.

What would they have done back before motors? Sat out the lack of wind…that is what!  Maybe dropped the anchor if it was shallow enough. But that would represent a lot of work…so maybe they would do what we are doing, merely drifting and do maintenance while waiting for the weather to change.

In our case, with access to cellular radio waves, I am able to check out weather reports and forecasts on the internet. Having done so I am able to see that it is unlikely that the wind conditions we are experiencing will change significantly enough for PRIDE to sail the rest of the distance to Savannah and arrive as scheduled early Thursday (tomorrow) morning. Hence, sometime later today we will take the sails in and start the engines and mosey slowly over to our appointment in Savannah set for early tomorrow morning.

The weather along the Southeast Coast of the United States has been light and the sea slight. Up until breakfast time this morning we had enough wind to sail between 3-4 knots against the light southerly winds of the last 24 hours. In that time PRIDE sailed from Frying Pan Shoal near Wilmington, NC to the vicinity of Charleston, SC.

The little bit of usable wind died out at breakfast and since we have been drifting with sails up but strapped in tight to reduce chaff. The on-watch crew have been getting deeper into cosmetic maintenance. Maybe at the mid-day watch change there will be swimming call. Kind of depends if there will be any wind at all. If none…yes. But if wind comes around…probably not.

Jan C. Miles, Captain Aboard Pride of Baltimore II