FICKLE BREEZES, GENEROUS FISHERMANJune 3, 2013
Friday, 31 May, 2013
Pos: 47 05.9’N x 064 53.0’W
Wx: WSW F 3, Overcast and chilly with scattered magic and a 100% chance of
Pride of Baltimore II at Anchor in 30′ of water
Pride of Baltimore II is swinging on her port bower off the fishing village of Escuminac, New Brunswick, population 263 in 1986, according to the sailing directions. The village stands solitary on the broad sandy beaches of Miramichi Bay. To the northeast the Gulf of St. Lawrence stretches out under a leaden sky marbled with sunlight. Hovering between the light breeze and a flood current, the ship rocks nearly constantly to the wakes of lobster boats.
We anchored here yesterday at 1910, two hours before the lavishly late sunset. From our last posting in St. Georges Bay, Pride II has had a mix of nearly everything. Approaching the Northumberland Straits south of Prince Edward Island, the coastal hills of Nova Scotia shown emerald under the warmest sun we’d seen in a week. The breeze freshened and veered as we rounded Cape George and headed toward Pictou Island. We swapped the stuns’l in exchange for the fores’l as we came on the wind. Thought about the mains’l, but held off. Pride II was just fine without it, sailing close hauled fifty degrees off the true wind, making eight to nine knots – impersonating a sloop by carrying everything she owned on the foremast and dragging around a bare stick of mainmast.
There are calculations and studies done that scientifically explain the hows and whys of sailing ships, explanations as to why Pride II moves as well as she does. The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) has been observing and cataloging data from Pride II for the better part of a decade. We’ve been teaching some of the basics to eighth graders all spring. I, myself, have studied stability for the battery of tests required to obtain a license as a Merchant Marine Officer. But when Pride II takes off like she did on Wednesday afternoon, I say scrap all the data, ignore the empirical. I claim magic.
Magic. Because going to weather with no mains’l must be magic; because screaming along close to ten knots, the ship was steering herself, the helmsman was there only to adjust when the wind shifted, and could then step away to let the ship do her thing. Magic. Because the ship, this design born in and bred for the Chesapeake Bay was proving she was at home, in her true element, anywhere there was wind and water. Magic, because, like a horse on a track, like a bloodhound on a trail, the ship knew where she was going and what she was doing. She didn’t need us. We were just along for the ride, the incredible, magic ride.
My extremely limited experience with magic has taught me this much – it never lasts long. It can’t, else it would cease being magic, become the accepted norm, and give us far fewer reasons to marvel. Rain, it seems, is a common harbinger that the magic is over. This was the case around midnight Wednesday turning Thursday. The breeze got shifty and fickle with the added moisture and by noon was gone altogether. We motored for a stretch to position ourselves near the Miramichi River mouth, had a quite night at anchor.
This morning, just before the impossibly early sunrise, we awoke to the sound of a vessel maneuvering close by. Coming to deck, I saw a lobster boat, out from Escuminac, holding alongside the port main chains, and the lobstermen talking to Engineer Seth Page. They’d already asked Seth how many crew we had aboard, and Seth, following their instructions had fetched a bucket. I got there just in time to thank them as they handed the bucket back over the rail, teeming with 17 live lobsters. Generosity, it seems, is a kind of magic that will endure rain and cold and early mornings. In my limited experience, it seems most prevalent when you arrive in a port after a long voyage across the water.
Captain Jamie Trost and the soon to lunch on lobster crew of Pride of Baltimore II