On Racing to Save the Bay

PRIDE went racing again in the annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.

The crew did really well and helped bring PRIDE to her 2nd in Class AA finish, in race weather that favored the slim, light weight yacht designs, and truly hindered the heavy workboat designs.

Still, the two longest boats in this year’s fleet, with PRIDE being the heaviest, and the other some 40 displacement tons lighter and four whole feet narrower (VIRGINIA), managed to finish quite respectably closely behind the slim, light weight, fast designs of Class A.

Where are the bragging rights in the above outcome? I hesitate to say, for PRIDE it is again besting VIRGINIA, a significantly faster design than PRIDE. PRIDE and VIRGINIA are good friends with a lot of respect for each other. But sport is sport, and sail boat races are sport. So bragging is acceptable (within a respectful framework, of course.)

For VIRGINIA, I would venture to say that bragging rights include being so close to the Class A finishers. All of Class A are designs that are no earlier (older) than the early 1900’s , are moderate sized and built only for recreation (not for working with fish or cargo or pilot boat “on station” in any weather work. ) All of Class AA are workboat designs, reproductions or “spirit of” concepts of the 1800’s. They are heavier than a Class A of the same length. The larger vessels of Class AA are even heavier with their extra length.

So what is it like flogging a sailing boat against the wind down the Chesapeake Bay? For everyone it requires a lot of tacking. I am told VIRGINIA tacked 27 times. But she only had her three headsail jibs to tack and her fisherman sail to strike to the deck and reset on the other side. Her foresail is self tacking. PRIDE’s crew must tack all three headsails, like VIRGINIA, but also brace around the yards (this is the crew breaker!) and tack the loose footed foresail. The yards aboard PRIDE do not remain balanced in the center as they swing from side to side, they hit the shrouds and must be forced to continue to the needed upwind bracing angle, and the shift of the pivot point creates increasing resistance. The resistance requires up to five or six people grouped together to sweat the braces in on the lee side. If all hands are on deck, that leaves the remaining four to five crew members to tack the three jibs one at a time. If the wind is just a little bit stronger than light, we have to have all crew for the braces, jibs, and the foresail! So when is there time for sleep? Between tacks. Usually there is less than 15 minutes between tacks, but sometimes there is more than an hour. Two thirds of the crew are sent down to nap, while waiting to be called for the next tack.

Fortunately the wind shifted by dawn on Friday, and the third of the fleet that were near the half way point at the Potomac River got a chance to sail “free” of any tacking.  The crew could now get some real rest. The weather report suggested the following wind pattern would be quite fresh, but there was an error. Despite the forecast, the new wind did not come in for another six hours. The longer boats like PRIDE and VIRGINIA did not get a chance to take advantage of strong favorable breezes and use their long waterline lengths.  

Meanwhile the smaller Class B & C boats, and several of the shorter Class AA boats, were somewhat bound up near the start due to weak winds the first night. They did not get the new north winds until later the second day. When they did get it…it was a sleigh ride.

Everyone attended the after race party and award ceremony, where surprise, surprise, surprise, PRIDE was awarded the REBEL EDUCATIONAL TROPHY in recognition for her participation in the GCBSR Education Initiative, for her more than 20 years of representing the maritime story of the Chesapeake Bay, and for being a sort of “Train the Trainer” Program. So many crew come to PRIDE from other education afloat programs to get more sailing experience, then return to those same programs with a great deal of professional development under their belts from their time on PRIDE. Their “new” knowledge fits in so well aboard the educational program vessels they originally came from, and the net result is a stronger fleet filled with well-rounded sailors.

As our Ranger “solider” re-enactor friends of Fort McHenry might say…hazzah! PRIDE OF BALTIMORE!!!

Jan C. Miles, Captain
Acting Executive Director

I've a Feeling We're Not in "Kansas" Anymore

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II is currently in Hampton, VA.

The ship arrived Friday to take part in some outport festivities for Opsail Virginia 2012.  PRIDE was spending the weekend in Hampton, VA, participating in the annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival. Friday was her first night in port; nicely secured in a very small harbor. There would be no wave action to worry about. With PRIDE’s mast and rigging standing proud there is always the need to monitor wind because any wind of any strength can cause mischief with either PRIDE being shoved against or away from the dock and experiencing damage, or possibly damaging the dock…or both. So, it is the responsibility for all aboard to always keep a weather eye for the wind, even while PRIDE is ostensibly safe in harbor.

Tornado approaching.

That responsibility was in full force Friday evening and is some of the reason we realized a tornado was approaching PRIDE well enough in advance to take some remedial action. Even with such warning it was a scramble. All hands turned-to getting deck tour guests off (there were few to none aboard because of recent monsoonal rain) and collapsing the awnings. We also took time to get flags down and potentially loose deck gear below. I monitored the approaching tornado as a means of assessing how much time the crew had before they needed to be in shelter provided by being below deck.

For those of you that are “YouTube” savvy, you may already have seen the Hampton, VA tornado of last Friday evening. If yes, you may also have seen the NWS (National Weather Service) video that shows the map of the track of that tornado. I can tell you the track depicted by NWS goes exactly over PRIDE at her dock in Hampton.

Our experience of the twister while we all were below is a blur. I recall upwards of a minute of significant angle of heel…10 degrees…maybe up to as much as 15 degrees…while I watched through the aft cabin skylight the wind blow over the ship bringing rain and glimpses of debris. Overall the twister experience was less than 5 minutes. Immediately after we all were on deck assessing PRIDE’s situation.

The City of Hampton mapped the path of the tornado, based on damages. Red areas indicate clusters of damage. (Map by Robin McCormick, Communications Strategist, City of Hampton)

There was damage. An anchored sailing yacht of 40 feet was dismasted and tangled up in PRIDE’s head-rig. Another sailing vessel was alongside. The two guns on the port side were up-ended and rolled over. The dock had loose boards. PRIDE has been shifted forward some three feet despite her doubled dock-lines taken up snug. as a result there were marks and gouges in PRIDE’s railing and rigging channel for the foremast rigging. The one tangled/dismasted sailing yacht was freed of PRIDE’s head rig quickly. The sailing vessel alongside moved away immediately. PRIDE was re-centered on the dock and her fenders re-rigged. PRIDE’s rubber boat was tossed about and her gear was afloat in the harbor…crew get in the small boat and retrieved all gear. Meanwhile another tornado warning went out…so there was hesitancy committing to much re-organizing or assessing of damage. Eventually it was truly dark. Eventually the 2nd tornado warning was lifted although a tornado “watch” would remain in affect till 2 AM.So, it was all hands remain aboard…but all were dismissed to stand down after all the obvious loose bits and disorganization was addressed.

The crew readied the ship and welcomed visitors aboard Saturday afternoon for the Blackbeard Festival

There was a delay to the Blackbeard Pirate Festival start Saturday till 2 PM from what would normally have been a 10 AM start. PRIDE’s crew spent from first thing Saturday till 2 PM getting ready for public deck tours. Then half the crew were given time off. Sunday the crew started with all hands till mid-day when the other watch got their time off. Meanwhile carpentry repairs got started Sunday morning at 7:30 and continued till 7:30 pm. The carpenter, Eric Lohsey came back today at 7 AM to pick up where he left off yesterday. At the rate things are going, all actual repairs should be completed today…save for painting.

What would have happened with high winds and seas while PRIDE was sailing? Probably what has happened for the last 24 years that PRIDE has been sailing. Come back home in good shape because the crew are aboard with only one mission, take care of the ship so she can take care of you. Whereas in port the crew could at anyone time be off of the ship or not monitoring weather 24 hours a day. Had our working day the night of the twister been a normal working day, most of the crew would have been ashore. Those aboard would not necessarily been able to be aware there was imminent tornado threat till it struck. In such a situation there would no doubt have been more collateral damage. The awnings for one. So where is PRIDE safer? At sea or in port? Kind of depends…doesn’t it?

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

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