Last Day of Lake Erie

6 September, 2011
Position: Alongside Port Colborne, Ontario
Wx: NxE F 1, Overcast

After a full and festive Labor Day Weekend, Pride of Baltimore II concluded her second visit to Buffalo. This traditional last hurrah for summer has brought changes in full store. In addition to a crew rotation of five crew departing the ship and five new hands to replace them, Captain Miles and I have also turned over command of the Pride II. On top of that, the weather definitely got the memo that summer was over – Pride II entered Buffalo in sweltering 90 degree heat on Friday, but a double cold front passage Sunday night has made certain the highs never topped 65 degrees yesterday or today. While that’s still pretty mild, it represents a nearly 30 degree change.

So out come the long pants, the occasional sweater, and the message is clear: Autumn is coming, and it is time to start the passage back to our home in the relatively temperate Chesapeake. While Ardrey Manning, Kaitlin McGee and all the volunteers and staff from the Erie Canal Harbor Development and the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club made Pride II’s holiday weekends in Buffalo a smashing success for all involved, we had to be on our way. After all the thank-yous and good-byes, we cleared customs outwards for Toronto and broke the happy inertia of being in port at 1500, making one last show by sailing off the dock in Erie Canal Harbor and out the breakwaters toward the Welland. In contrast to the thrumming crowd we’d grown used to in Buffalo, just a few onlookers watched, applauded and wished us well as we made our way West under sun-cracked grey skies. Thanks again to all who made Buffalo a home away from Baltimore for Pride II and her crew.

Once underway, there was no shortage of training to do with so many new hands. Keeping the sail plan conservative with just the “day sail combo” of Fores’l, Stays’l and Foretops’l, we still had Pride IItopping 8 knots with a moderate Northeasterly breeze while we ran through drills for Fire and Man Overboard scenarios. With good performance and attentive hands, the drills went smoothly. There is still, as always, a great deal for both new and old hands to learn, but the crew is solid. After debriefing the drills and throwing in a few maneuvers, we secured alongside in Port Colborne at sunset. Lake Erie is behind us now – bittersweet for me, since it is quite a thrill to have Pride II in the waters on which I grew up sailing. But now on to tomorrow’s challenge, the big descent through the 8 Locks of the Welland Canal.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the fresh faced crew of Pride II

326 Ft. Climb

28 June 2011
Position: Alongside West Street Wharf, Port Colbourne, Ontario
Wx: WSW F 3-4 Partly Cloudy and Warm

Pride of Baltimore II has made it up Niagara Falls…Sort of…By using the eight locks of the Welland Canal, the ship has “climbed” 326 feet today, and bridged the gap between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. A fitting event for my first passage back in command, because just sixty-five nautical miles to the Southwest are the very waters on which I first learned to sail. And meanwhile, yacht racers from my childhood are in a Canadian port just ten miles to the East of us, finishing up the Annual “Interclub” racing series between Lake Erie Yacht Clubs.

Our sailing aboard Pride II was overly speedy en route from Rochester, but thanks to favorable breezes we sailed from the entrance channel of Rochester to within sight of the entrance to the Welland, reducing sail at times to make the canal at day break so our guest crew could get a good look at the spectacle that moving ships vertically can be.

Compared to the sailing, the locking through the Welland was much more work. The crew have plenty to do rigging wooden fendering to protect the ship and lines to take up as furiously as the water fills the deep box of the locks. There are eight total locks in the canal, seven of them raising the ship over 40 feet. Thanks to careful positioning by the lock crews, Pride II encountered minimal turbulence, which translates to less work for the crew. But still lots of work. As a pay off, the crew was able to look astern from the top of Lock 7 and see clear back (7 miles) and down (326 feet) to Lake Ontario.

With eighteen hours of sailing and twelve hours of locking behind us, we are sitting pretty to make Buffalo – a mere 20 miles East – for a grand arrival tomorrow. Lake Erie has churned up a 5 foot chop, and the forecast is for moderation tomorrow, so we are taking the opportunity to rest up and get ready to wow them in Buffalo tomorrow.

All best, 
Jamie Trost, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II