PRIDE of BALTIMORE II in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence

June 17, 2010

0900 hours Thursday June 17, 2010
Near east end of Prince Edward Island.
Wind SW’rly 15 knots.
Sailing with eased sheets under all working sail (3 jibs, square topsail, foresail, mainsail & main-topsail).

The Gulf is pretty flat just now. Just yesterday the weather reports indicated there were 3 meter seas (more than 10 feet) due to strong northwest winds. All that has died down and the Gulf is placid while PRIDE makes about 6 knots under sail pointed at the eastern tip of the Gaspe Peninsula.

The northwesterlies were what helped us get started from Lunenburg going east to Cape Canso. Had we departed Monday as scheduled rather than late Tuesday as we did we would have run into headwinds of between 30 and 40 knots from the northwest during the leg between Cape Canso and the Straits of Canso and beyond into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Such wind strength would have stopped us in our tracks and would have been very hard to find safe anchorage with plus we would have used up a lot of fuel getting into a safe position to wait the northwest winds to die off. As it was, PRIDE ran into 20 knot northwest breezes last evening around 6 pm as she started her turn around Cape Canso toward the Straits. Fortunately as the sun went down so did the wind strength to less than 15 knots and also backed towards the west. So it was possible to motor to and through the Straits with only one engine hence conserving fuel while still making 6 knots or better.

I have been bothered by the late departure from Lunenburg. Figuring the timing for PRIDE getting from port to port involves a standard rule of thumb calculation of how many miles we think we can make in 24 hours without knowing what the weather will actually be for any of the legs. In over two decades PRIDE has been late to arrive less than a dozen times. Each time she has actually been late it involved weather that just could not be avoided and time ran out. I fear we will run out of time getting to Oswego considering it was prudent to delay departure because of the northwest winds that blew on Tuesday. Interestingly, when conversing with the Canso Lock Master I learned that it was blowing almost 50 knots from the northwest yesterday morning. Yep, we would have been stopped in our tracks at Cape Canso! So the delayed departure from Lunenburg was well advised. However, any additional significant weather that creates a reason to stop our advance will surely cause us to be late arriving Oswego.

But we are making way now under sail…not motor…and if we can keep 6 knots or better as we cross the Gulf, and if we can do it without motoring, it will be of great benefit towards our effort to arrive in Oswego on time.

Behind us by 30 miles or so is the privateer schooner LYNX. Being smaller than PRIDE she is unable to sail as fast as PRIDE when there are strong winds. In moderate to light winds there would not be much difference between the vessels. However there appears to be a difference in motoring. LYNX carries more fuel than does PRIDE notwithstanding being smaller. Also, she is equipped with the ability to change the pitch of her single propeller anytime she wants. PRIDE has two fixed pitch propellers. Being able to increase or decrease the bite of her propeller gives LYNX the opportunity to keep her one engine, which is equal to the power of PRIDE’s two engines when added together, at the most efficient and powerful portion of the power curve no matter the conditions. For motor sailing situations where the sails are doing some pulling, the pitch can be made larger and the engine run slower and help the sails drive LYNX at a faster speed than PRIDE in the same circumstances using only one of her engines with its fixed pitch propeller. Or, if it is required to push against strong weather, LYNX can reduce the pitch of her propeller and keep the engine at an efficient and powerful RPM. While PRIDE has two engines and propellers that when used together provide fully adequate power to handle most situations, using one engine makes for greater economy but less power which can mean less speed if one is trying to push against the wind while conserving fuel. With yesterdays favorable northwest breezes PRIDE was able to get ahead of LYNX under sail. Since both vessels have been motoring from just after mid day yesterday, LYNX has been able to keep the pace if not actually do some catching up.

It is fun having a “friend” vessel in close proximity during a voyage. I have been having weather and itinerary strategy discussions with LYNX’s captain over the radio on a regular basis. Captain Jamie Trost has been and continues to be a regular relief captain here aboard PRIDE hence we have worked together. Having two Chesapeake Bay 1812 War privateer reproductions making a voyage together into the Great Lakes with two captains that have worked closely together a lot makes for some very efficient and on-topic conversations. Not a lot of background conversation has to be made because we have had these conversations before when discussing PRIDE business. Jamie has never sailed or transited the St. Lawrence River and he has not been bashful to ask me about things. In turn, I have done this trip almost two dozen times over the last 30 years. Jamie’s questions remind me of what I have experienced hence actually helps me focus better on this voyage.

Limited fuel and winds that are often blowing from where you need to go with traditional sail vessels across international borders makes for a potent brew of conflicting realities on a voyage to the Great Lakes from the Atlantic. Take for instance the question of fuel. Why can’t we just pull into a place along the way and get more fuel if we use more than we hoped to? Well, first of all, we have formally “cleared” out of Canada. To go back into Canada requires time spent re-entering and then re-clearing. Meanwhile the nearest American port is more than 75 percent of the distance from Lunenburg to Oswego. Stopping there will require formally entering into the United States, which is not a problem except it takes time. But I just learned from Jamie that LYNX’s office has learned that no fuel delivery trucking companies near that ‘first American’ port are permitted to deliver fuel to a vessel unless they have “passed” the security requirements and have the required extra liability coverage in case of a fuel spill. Since no trucking company wants the extra expense of all the formality plus the liability on the “off chance” a vessel will need fuel, no delivery of fuel by truck is available when a few years ago it was. Most marinas in the St. Lawrence River on the American side are too shallow or small to accept PRIDE alongside for fuel. So…at this point, it seems to me we best not run into strong head winds or we may risk running out of fuel trying to push against such wind while trying to keep to the schedule set for arrival in Oswego. Push come to shove, such a circumstance will require choosing to be late so as not to run out of fuel.

Well, the wind is back from recently being light. PRIDE is sailing along fast and in the right direction. The more she can do this the better off we might be for keeping to the schedule and the better it will be when the time comes to stop sailing and motor up the narrow portions of the St. Lawrence River.

Cheers,
Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II


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