"On the Hard"

Ocean Marine Yacht Center
Portsmouth, VA

A phrase I learned from our British friends early in my traditional sailing vessel career. Meaning the vessel is not in its element…rather it is hauled out of it for maintenance…or storage. In PRIDE II’s case it is maintenance as well as cleaning the underwater portion of the hull and painting it again for another season of active sailing.

“Life” on the hard presents a dramatic inconvenience for all of the crew…not to mention added expense to the company. First, no one can live aboard while PRIDE II is hauled out…a shipyard policy. Hence the crew finish and start their day with better than a half mile walk to and from the hotel. To contain company cost, meals are aboard, scheduled within the work day. Since the shipyard policy restricts us from starting work to no earlier than 7 AM and we must be gone by 6 PM, our whole day is scheduled just so. Report to the ship at 7 and get working as soon as possible…usually about 7:15 to 7:30 considering change of clothes and wiping off any dew on the varnish. Meanwhile the cook starts breakfast immediately. Often breakfast is ready to sit down to at 8:30-8:45. Considering crew might be under PRIDE II working or off to the side somewhere on sail maintenance set up off of PRIDE II, meal breaks can represent an additional amount of time between actual work getting done. Supper is set for 5 PM to give time for post supper cleanup. Then the walk back to the hotel. Carrying little because you have decided to have all you might want at the hotel, having carried all on the first walk to the hotel. Or carrying something because you leave everything aboard PRIDE II and only carry what you want for the night. This goes on day after day, seven days a week, until one of two things happen:  the weather is so bad work cannot proceed or PRIDE II is back in her natural element again.

PRIDE has been “on the hard” for a week now. PRIDE Ii’s crew have completed the required underwater hull prep work and the hull is ready for the first of two coats of underwater paint. But with the rain over the weekend and this morning being the first dry period since the rain ended, the shipyard crew cannot start painting till after mid day. By then, with a low humidity and sunny, windy morning, the hull should be dry enough for the first underwater coat. Meanwhile PRIDE II’s crew shift their energies to rigging up. The spars are in place and quite a bit of running rigging is run-off. But the “tuning” (tensioning of the rig) has not been done and sails have not been “bent on”.

Looking for the moment at the long view, we seem to be on schedule for being ready to sail come mid April.

Jan C. Miles, A Captain

March Madness with PRIDE

Pride of Baltimore II alondside her winter berth in Canton
Friday, March 16, 2012

March is here and the “madness” is in full swing. 

Chief Mate Sarah Whittam taking off final piece of winter cover

The first part of March is when the newly boarded sailing crew convert PRIDE II from her winter covered state to her rigged up state. This involves uncovering the ship and reinstalling her rig. Uncovering the ship cannot be done until the spars on the ground are uncovered. Rather a lot of careful dis-assembly is required of the cover frames for both the spars and the ship…considering the cover frames are reused each time PRIDE II is rigged down and winterized. Meanwhile a lot of fiddly rigging detail work is required to ready the spars for hoisting.

Halyards need roving off (run through their respective blocks that have been put in place on the lower masts). Topmasts have to be moved aboard then hoisted into a semi-hoisted position…we call this “housed”. Then all of their supporting rigging is attached…rigging eyes slipped over the top. Then the topmasts are hoisted the rest of the way and “fidded”…the “fid” (key) slipped under the heel of the topmast and the topmast lowered down onto.

Dressing the fore top yard

Meanwhile the yards need to be “dressed” before they are hoisted into their position. Dressed means rigged with all of their square-sail running gear. We go to the extra effort of actually bending on (tying on) the square fore-topsail to the top-yard before hoisting all into position because rigging the square-sail on the ground is easier by far than doing so up on the yard hoisted some 80 odd feet in the air.

In addition all of the equipment and supplies that we keep aboard for both operations, safety and maintenance must come aboard before PRIDE heads off for dry-dock in Portsmouth, Virginia this coming weekend.

For additional photos check out our Facebook Photo Albums.

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

A Tale of Two Captains

March 9, 2012
PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II alongside her Winter Berth at Clinton Street
Winter cover removed; Sparlandia Dismantled

This time of year, PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II is in her transformation phase; the period of time where she is awakened from her winter cocoon by the Spring crew who anxiously and eagerly look to put her back together so they can get on with their favorite task – sailing. 

As we enter this period during which PRIDE II converts from “stored” for the winter to her fully functional sailing beauty what are her two Captains thinking about and doing?

Starting on the day the sailing crew come aboard, some whom sailed her before and many that have not, must be oriented/reoriented as to how to: 1) live aboard PRIDE II; 2) how to keep her safe while they live aboard; 3) start the work of reloading the equipment/tools/supplies she needs, all of which were taken off for the winter; and 4) picking up from the Winter Maintenance Crew the remaining projects that did not get completed. At the same time both Captains remain involved with the rest of the staff in running the organization. This dual responsibility comes from my assuming the role of Acting Executive Director and Captain Jamie Trost taking on some of the office centric requirements, such as conversations with Ports that want PRIDE II to visit and the adjustment to contracts required to establish the details of those conversations.

Traditionally both Captains of PRIDE have always worked together during the times PRIDE is at home and not sailing. This dual management, or co-management, is very demanding on both Captains and fills all the day, seven days a week, for at least the seven weeks involved in a typical spring conversion from winter storage to a fully sailable state. The reason for this strategy is “knowledge”. To a Master alone aboard sailing during the season, there is nothing worse than discovering a problem with the ship that stems directly from a decision made by the other Captain during the spring crew training, rig-up and dry-docking phase. Naturally there are always going to be differences between Captains. Working together(!) means those differences converge/merge into mutually agreed upon resolutions, as well as mutually cognizant “knowledge” for the background to any problem that develops out of work or decisions made during intense re-commissioning/maintenance periods.

Now, with both Captains filling non-maritime specific administrative responsibilities coupled with the spring fit-out period of 7 weeks (7 days/week, with days starting at 8 am and ending sometime between 5 pm and 8 pm, the latter when also fitting in the needed history lessons for the crew), the minds of the Captains are full of things that do not have anything to do with crew training, vessel maintenance, scheduling recertification inspections, verifying spares are being obtained and the actual re-rigging of the ship. Yeah, we Captains have a lot to think about…and we share closely together what those thoughts are.

With close collaboration between the Captains as well frequent networking with the Staff we believe we have a system that brings out the best of the ship, her crew, as well what comes from the conscientious work by the Staff. But it requires periods of time when both Captains are unable to relieve each other and give each other time off as is done in the course of the sailing season.  During the season only one Captain is in charge of the ship so the other Captain has the opportunity for some time off and to live a more typical work week like that of the Staff.

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