At last…quiet, calm as we head up the Potomac

At 4 AM this morning, after 34 hours of steady motoring for a distance of 268 nautical miles (7.8 knot average) against a steady 25 to 30 knots of wind, PRIDE was able to stop motoring at the Patuxent River and sail into the Potomac River after breakfast this morning.

The above represents an atypical grind for PRIDE. Very fortunately, itineraries established for PRIDE usually enable her to sail more than half of all her transits. But in this instance, as in a small number of instances over the more than two decades of scheduling PRIDE, it was necessary to push PRIDE along with her engines most of the distance between New York and Washington D.C. because the weather was not only contrary for the overall direction of travel, but strongly so.

Right now, the peace of having the engines off is almost shattering for the absence of the muted grinding roar of two turbo-charged 4-cylinder engines heard down below and the constant buffeting blast of 25 to 30 knots of wind one received while on deck. The lack of motion due to the virtually calm Potomac River also provides a near unreal bliss of ease for any effort to move around the ship. The transit along the New Jersey Coast was a jerky heaving motion that could often send one to their knees or lurching heavily to the side. While there was a respite from motion during the transit up the upper Delaware Bay, through the C&D Canal and down the upper Chesapeake Bay, the main body of the Chesapeake Bay created a definite hobby horsing motion as a result of 25 to 30 knots of southerly wind all last night.

But after all of the above, PRIDE is not only now sailing in some friendly wind, she is on target to make the scheduled Tuesday 4 AM lift of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which crosses the Potomac River at Alexandria, VA. To be sure, the Route 95 traffic that will crossing the bridge at that hour will not be pleased!!! But at least it is a lift that won’t be happening between 5 AM and 11 PM.

PRIDE just spent a week in Manhattan as guest of Denis Connor’s North Cove Marina, managed by the Manhattan Sailing Club. She was there to participate in the New York Classic Yacht Regatta over Columbus Weekend and remained the following week to host an evening reception for Visit Baltimore, a tourism arm of the City of Baltimore, and to do a number of public day-sails to raise revenue for Pride of Baltimore, Inc. There was no wind for the Classic Yacht Regatta, but the weather was unseasonably warm and dry, so it was a pleasant day on the water for the 35 regatta guests on each of the three race days of the weekend.  The ship was filled to capacity for each race, representing a successful weekend of revenue raising business for Pride, Inc. through the direct use of PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II. Later in the week there was a lot of rain and wind during the scheduled day-sails, as a result those were cancelled. But the Visit Baltimore reception last Tuesday evening experienced very pleasant weather indeed, along with a spectacular view of Jersey City across the Hudson River during the evening sunset.

PRIDE’s scheduled departure of North Cove last Friday was delayed due to fresh southerly winds creating a significant contrary sea state along the Jersey Coast. Friday evening a cold front came through as forecast, bringing strong southwest and westerly winds. By Saturday, the sea state along the Jersey shore was down enough, knocked down by the fresh westerly winds, that it was deemed appropriate to depart New York. The loss of 24 hours from the delayed start and the lack of truly westerly winds, meaning that sea state along the Jersey shore was still somewhat robust and winds were still south of west, meant that PRIDE could not sail fast enough through such sea state due to the wind being south of west, and make the speed needed to remain on schedule. So instead, her two engines pushed her along.

There was some serious debate concerning going all the way to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay rather than up the Delaware Bay and through the C&D Canal then down the Chesapeake Bay. There is only an additional 20 odd miles to Washington D.C. using the “outside” route rather than the “inside” route. But the prevalence of the west wind turned out to be much less than originally forecast. Instead there would be additional southerly to southwesterly winds of some strength returning again Sunday afternoon. Those winds would be useful for going up the Chesapeake Bay, but PRIDE would not arrive the mouth of The Bay till early Monday morning, meaning there would be some stout headwinds while still off shore of the DelMarVa Peninsula. Meanwhile the Atlantic sea state persisted and looked like it would only be added to by the return of the southerly winds. By arriving near the mouth of the Delaware Bay around breakfast on Sunday, PRIDE could ride the Delaware flood current all the way up to the C&D Canal, plus catch a favorable “ebb” current thru the canal and down the upper length of the Chesapeake Bay. Turning up the Delaware would also eliminate exposure to the Atlantic sea state. The serious debate ended around 6 AM Sunday as PRIDE approached the mouth of the Delaware Bay.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

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

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

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

Last Lake

 12 September 2011
Pos: 43 30.5’N x 078 52.7’W
Wx: SWxS F 5

After a hectic late week and weekend in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, respectively, Pride of Baltimore II is underway once more, this time headed down the length of Lake Ontario and entering the 662 nautical miles of the St. Lawrence River. While the big city hustle and the Toronto International Film Festival overshadowed Pride II’s visit, the crew were still able to capitalize on the Orioles being in town to play – and defeat – the Toronto Blue Jays. During our Thursday and Friday stay there, Craig Weeks and company at Toronto Harbourfron Centre were terrific in their support.

Sailing to Hamilton on Saturday morning, Pride II took center stage, even outstripping the HMCS Montreal, a Canadian Frigate for the attentions of the town. We arrived to Hamilton Harbor with an Easterly breeze and threaded our way through a slough of sailing races to grand stand in front of Hamilton’s Marine Discovery Center. Opening at 1530 once the ship was secure and the gangway suitable, we saw 995 people visit by 1900, and then another 2186 between 1100 and 1800 Sunday. Hamiltonians are proud of their history, enthused about all things maritime and even had a pirate themed roller-derby in honor of our visit! Thanks to all the folks who made our visit to the Western-most port on Lake Ontario a great one.

As I write this, Pride II is charging along between 8 and 10 knots under all plain sail, plus the stuns’l and t’gallant. The breeze is forecast to hold and possibly increase while remaining from some Westerly direction, which means it’s a favorable breeze all the way to Montreal, our next port. With such conditions, it looks as if we may not get to add Lake Ontario to our swim call list, but, having sailed off the dock in Hamilton this morning, we may trade that check mark for being able to sail the entire length of the Lake. Here’s hoping.

All best,
Jamie Trost and Montreal bound crew of Pride II

Feels Like a Laid Back Weekend

We are now sailing on the longest leg since late July when PRIDE made her transit from Marquette to Boyne City. We departed Monday from Port Washington and are not scheduled to arrive Amherstburg till Saturday. It will be the longest time frame of non-public, in-port busy-ness in the last four weeks. Yesterday, Monday, felt like a typical shore-based lifestyle Saturday with the crew doing maintenance like everyone else does chores. Today, Tuesday, feels like Sunday with no chores…just enjoying the sailing and the sleeping between being on watch. Weather is favorable, making the sailing easy as we again slide by Sleeping Bear Dune near Traverse Bay, Michigan…at least for now. Overall it seems we are enjoying a “weekend” like experience…only that it is actually being experienced on a Monday and a Tuesday.

Meanwhile we partner captains of PRIDE, Jamie Trost and myself, are up to our eyebrows in crew selection. By the time PRIDE departs Boston in early October all of this year’s crew are likely to have changed save for maybe two…the Chief Mate and a Deckhand. The rotation started earlier in August. We have Hannah Mahan aboard now…she replaces Paul Wiley and came aboard August 11. The next change will be next week as Joe O’Hara gets off. Then over the Labor Day Weekend four more positions will change as 2nd Mate Carolyn Seavey, Bosun Rebecca Pskowski, Engineer Andrew Kaiser and Deckhand Arwyn Rogers all depart the ship. In Boston we will loose the cook and two more deckhands. All these vacancies need to be filled and the process to do so started back in July…and won’t end till we identify all the replacements…only about half are identified at this time. Coordinating the interview process so that both captains can assess each candidate is quite time consuming and must take place as one of us sails PRIDE and the other of us take’s personal time during time off of the ship.

Jan C. Miles,  Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II