"Farewell to (Tall Ships) Nova Scotia," Two Quaint and Totally Different Towns, and Chasseur – Pride II’s Pride and Joy

July 31, 2012

Tuesday, 31 July, 2012
Pos: 43 21.2’N X 066 42.1’W
Wx: WSW F 2, Seas 1′, Fog
Pride of Baltimore II Motor-Sailing under Mains’l, Gaff Tops’l and Stays’l at 6 knots.

After nearly two weeks in the cold waters and warm hospitality of Nova Scotia, Pride of Baltimore II is bound for Maine and the USA. Since our fully-packed stay in Halifax, and our action-packed passage from the Nova Scotian Capital, the pace took a decidedly more relaxing turn in the Southwestern shore towns of Lunenburg and Shelburne. But our hosts stayed just as welcoming and the visitors to the ship just as excited. Open to the public for two days in both places, Pride II saw more visitors than the total population in each town – 4422 in Lunenburg and 2888 in Shelburne! And while both towns could safely and accurately be described as “quaint,” they are about as different as can be.  

Steeped in the history of Loyalists to the crown fleeing a fledgling America for still British Canada, Shelburne has an almost English feel to it. And the flotilla of private vessels who welcomed Pride II in on Friday afternoon illustrated that they temper their ardent preservation of history with performance modern sailing. A good fit for Pride II. On arrival, the local Longboat Society, who maintain and drill with a pair of 27′ replica Bounty-style longboats, hosted a reception aboard in full 18th Century attire. With the rest of the fleet delayed by weather and Pride II there alone, they Society regaled us with the history of their town, featuring seven generations of the Cox family building fishing vessels, from schooners to dories to power-driven boats. The buildings of the Cox shipyard are all a museum now, immaculately preserved and giving the town an almost movie set quality along the waterfront. Dozens of people in traditional costume or pirate garb frequently firing off replica weapons only added to the picture.

Though small, Shelburne was certainly cozy and welcoming, from the initial flotilla to the sparse crowd on the dock to see our departure. Once off the dock, we shut down straight away, set the foretops’l and fired port guns in salute, then ran down the harbor on a Northeast breeze. The harbor itself seemed loath to let us leave, presenting us with a Southerly just before we cleared the outer reaches, and forcing us to short tack our way out beyond the rocky headlands. But it is, in fact, “Farewell to Nova Scotia” for us. 

But let’s not forget about the middle port in our Canadian foray – Lunenburg, a fishing town with an active working waterfront full of trawlers and draggers, all against a museum-like backdrop of Victorian houses and traditional ships. Homeport to Canada’s iconic schooner Bluenose II (currently being rebuilt), she is also the home of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. The museum has excellent exhibits and historic ships, but the thing it truly captures is the spirit of the town’s seagoing history. And modern day adventurers can hail at the offices for the world-ranging barque Picton Castle, a ship whose exotic voyaging, international crew and preservation of traditional seamanship perpetuate Lunenburg’s connection to the sea.

The sea is truly in the blood there – against a background of seven tall ships, the mooring field south of the waterfront was littered with local traditional small craft. On Wednesday night they were all underway for racing or fun, and Pride II’s crew was even invited to borrow a dory schooner appropriately named Miscreant. Post sailing, racing or not, all hands are called to the Malagash Harbor Yacht Club for burgers and beers.

Perhaps the most perfect yacht club in all the world, the Malagash’s Clubhouse consists of two rafts pinned together – one with a small shack and one with a barbeque grill – on a mooring in the harbor. Membership is granted on arrival, the dress code encourages shorts and bare feet, and access is only by boat. Looking around at a fleet of twenty or so traditional craft rafted up to the “club,” I found myself thinking a person could say they were raised “Lunenburg” in the same way they might say they were raised Catholic, or Jewish, or Presbyterian. Seafaring is not a pastime in Lunenburg, it is a cultural imperative.

And among those rafted boats was Pride II’s own Chasseur. Named with an historic nod to Thomas Boyle’s famous privateer, and often called “the world’s most expensive deck-box,” Chasseur has certainly been a bit underutilized in her life. The crew is too busy, the schedule too tight, the water too murky to risk a scum line on her white hull. All these, while often true, have kept Chasseur from being used to expand the seamanship of many Pride II sailors. After all, much of what a sailor needs to know can be best learned in a small, open boat.

But Nova Scotia saw a rebirth of Chasseur. Rigged “on the hip” at our Halifax dock in order to help clear some deck space for the relatively steep gangway, she tempted more than a few crew, myself included, to take her out. So in she went, and after a night of swelling, I bailed her quick and took her for a row around George’s Island as a morning work-out. Small enough to be single-handed, yet spacious enough to hold six, she’s been rowed and sailed more in the last week than she has in my four and more years with Pride II. Both the boat and the crew are happier for it. She’s been used for R&R, physical fitness, crew training and development, and even as transportation when we showed up in style to Shelburne’s waterfront crew party.

It’s good to show her off. Her full, buoyant lap-straked hull in sharp contrast to the hard-chined and flat bottomed dories of Nova Scotia, she is pleasing to both the sailor and the on-looker. Both her hull and her cotton sail are older than all our deckhands, yet she sails with all the life and joy of a laughing child.

After half a dozen rows in her, I finally took her for a sail Sunday afternoon, in a moderate Nor’easter and a light rain. Partly out of curiosity, and partly to settle a debate with Bosun Elizabeth Foretek, I forewent the rudder and tiller, maneuvering Chasseur only by sail trim and shifting weight. Those of you skeptical as to the existence of magic should try this. Constantly adjusting her trim, often standing up with the sheet in hand and the feel of her progress under my feet through her sole boards; she demanded to be sailed like a windsurfer or a planing dingy. For steering she responded to a foot placed forward or aft, a step to leeward or by hiking out with my feet tucked under a thwart in the gusts, keeping her flat to keep her from rounding up. Then the challenge of tacking – ducking to leeward and nearly diving for the bow, standing up in front of the mast and pushing her lee rail almost under water with my foot, then scampering over thwarts to the stern sheets so her head would pay off onto the next tack. Some might say physics, but in the misty rain of Shelburne Harbor, it felt like magic.

She requires constant tinkering, just like her “mother ship” Pride II. So, good for the crew to be out and tinkering, practicing the finer details of the craft we focus so intently on aboard the schooner herself. And fitting, as we enter the thick of the War of 1812 Bicentennial, that Chasseur should be so reborn, and once again teaching us all a thing or two about real sailing.

All best,

Captain Jamie Trost and the “States” bound crew of Pride of Baltimore II (and Chasseur)

 


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