Diverting for. . . Weather?

Position: Rafted Alongside the Barque Picton Castle, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Wx: W F 1, Clear, Way too warm to be Nova Scotia
September 26, 2011

Sunday, September 25 was a glorious day for weather, schooners and sailing camaraderie. After alternately sailing and motoring in nearly clockwork fashion of 12 hour stretches through fog, light air and misty rain, since locking through the Straight of Canso Friday night with her sister privateer Lynx, Pride of Baltimore II was suddenly bathed in sunlight and the weather was down right hot. A southwest breeze filled in at 0800, we secured engines and re-set the jibs, fores’l and foretops’l, which had all be taken in for motoring the night before.

On the horizon was Lynx, who had made better progress by using a bit more petroleum on Saturday. We set the t’gallant, closed with them and spent an hour tacking and wareing around each other just off the mouth of Lunenburg Bay, showing off for the few folks around in small boats or ashore, but mostly maneuvering for our own fun, in much the same way dolphins jump and twist in our wake. This is something we rarely get to do, sail simply for the sake of sailing. Our passages between ports are focused on making best speed, and our maneuvers and grandstanding are so often center-stage affairs, part of a parade or film shoot, timed to please crowds or media. While we always enjoy showing off Pride II, this time we got to show her off for ourselves.

As playground for our antics, we could scarcely have imagined better. With the wind at force three, Pride II and Lynx were both comfortably carrying all the sail they owned. Nova Scotia’s hills glowed lush and green in perfect sunlight – so rare on a coastline normally draped in fog. A barely perceptible roll reminded us with each heave that this was not the protected Chesapeake, but the open ocean. Still, the flat water let us do the incredible things Baltimore Schooners can do – pinpoint turns, incredible pointing – while above the jagged coast loomed the spires of Lunenburg, a favorite destination for all sailors.

And the crew, between each maneuver, burned with the question “Will we stop?”

Our friends aboard Highlander Sea were already there. Lynx had made it clear they would hail. World-voyaging Picton Castle, so often absent to far flung reaches of the world, was in port. Boston, our destination, was now just 350 nautical miles off, and we still had seven days to get there.

What else could a captain do? If I had tried to sail past, I’d have worried half the crew might swim for shore. The forecast called for flat clam until Wednesday, then coming Easterly, so there was nothing to gain by staying at sea. I made arrangements with Customs. Officially, we were diverting for weather. This is actually true, but not in the sense of thrashing gales, impending hurricanes and heaping seas traditionally evoked by the phrase. I suppose, to be technical, we were diverting for a LACK of weather. If the calm conditions were preceding strong Westerlies, we’d have had to make a mad dash to beat them. Instead, by waiting for the Easterlies, we’d save fuel.

So, “yes,” I told the crew, we’d stop in Lunenburg. But we weren’t just going there, we were grand standing in, so they’d better be spot on. This was no easily awed audience we were about to parade in front of, but a salty town full of working mariners who know their schooners. Plus, the wind had shifted West Northwest, putting the town nearly straight to weather, and meaning we’d be short tacking up the rock and shoal studded length of Lunenburg Bay. They answered the challenge and at 1650 local time, Pride II rounded up just off Picton Castlewith a thunder of cannon and flurry of sail handling. Folks out on a Sunday stroll lined the piers to watch. We weren’t just sailing for ourselves after all, but we didn’t mind at all.

All best,
Jamie Trost and sunbasking (really? In Nova Scotia?) crew of Pride II