Back in the Saddle — The Complex Versatility of PRIDE IIJune 26, 2012
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Pos: 39 13.5’N x 074 12.3’W
Wx: NxW F 4-5, Seas 3-5′ Clear
Pride of Baltimore II Sailing under Fore Tops’l, Fores’l, Stays’l, and Jib at 9-10 knots
Pride of Baltimore II is back at sea today after a month in her home waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Having relieved Captain Miles yesterday morning in Baltimore, I’m back at sea aboard her for the first time in nine months. Shoreside logistics kept us alongside until after noon yesterday, and our sail out from the Inner Harbor was shortened because the North wind would allow no progress up the narrow channels to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. But this morning at 0426 we secured engines and ran down the Delaware Bay like a thoroughbred horse penned up too long. Now – with a Northwest breeze intent on blowing the summer sky clear of clouds, the Ocean off the Jersey beaches alive and frothy, and six eager guest crew aboard – it’s a fine day to be back “in the saddle.”
I’ve often described the power and drive of Pride II under sail as akin to riding a strong, determined horse, a living thing that will accept direction only from knowing and deliberate hands, and then only grudgingly, and with constant reminders that, while the motivation may be yours, the power is still all hers. And crossing the lively chop at ten knots, she is still a handful. Today, however, the challenge is not how to handle her, but what to mode to sail her in. With her ever sleek Chesapeake Schooner hull, Pride II will make the most of any sailing breeze. The complexity of her Tops’l Schooner rig – sometimes called “hermaphrodite” for incorporating elements of both the more modern fore and aft rig (supposedly booms and gaffs and sails along the centerline are more “feminine”) and the husky, traditional square rig (as the theory goes yards set perpendicular to the centerline are “masculine”) – gives so many combinations of sail she’s almost three ships in one.
In more moderate or more downwind conditions, we’d simply set all sail and go with it, but as Captain Walter Rybka of the Brig Niagara famously said, “You see traditional ships with all of their sails set in two instances: idyllically perfect sailing conditions, and really bad maritime art.” And while today is a fine sailing day, it’s a shade, or a slight wind shift, shy of idyllic. Our other options demand a choice between the huge schooner mains’l and the square fore tops’l, both of which represent the same heeling force on the ship. Truth be told, we’d like to set both, but it’s too windy for that. We opted for the more versatile fore tops’l, hoping for a westerly shift. And we don’t think Pride II looks one bit less elegant and feminine without her mains’l.
Captain Jamie Trost and the swift sailing crew of Pride of Baltimore II