Safe alongside in Superior

July 27, 2010

27 July 2010
Pride of Baltimore II
Wx: NW F 3, Gusting 6, Thunderstorms and Lightning
Secure in Superior, Wisconsin

Pride of Baltimore II is secure along side a disused and currently being renovated iron ore dock. There was no trip to the Apostle Islands, only a brief glimmer of Outer Island, Rocky Island, and the lighted aids on Devil’s Island and Sand Island under the just waning moon. But we were still sailing at 6 knots when we saw them. With the options I had conjured for Pride II’s passage end-game into Duluth, I wasn’t sold on or married to an one particular one, but did not want to veto the Apostle Islands stop out of hand until I was certain that the weather would make it pointless. As it stood, we were having a great passage, and I wanted to know what the crew, and particularly the guest crew, were interested in.

So I did something rather unusual in maritime life – I invited all hands aft to the quarter deck, laid out the four options, and invited them to vote. However, I placed the very large asterisk that their vote was in no way final, and they would simply play the legislative branch to my executive branch. And not even a unanimous vote out of their congress would be let to override my say.

I had an idea, going into the discussion, that the hope of a peaceful anchoring was gone, but also that there would remain workable breeze for us to close the distance towards Duluth for sometime before things got soggy, and finally snotty. So I may have used a tinted brush in painting out the different scenarios. But as it happened, the crew’s sense of things was that the sailing was good and should continue, but anchoring in a thunderstorm was nothing to be desired.

The guest crew, in particular, expressed a desire to make their memories of Pride II slicing to weather on a glittering lake, not of all night anchor drills. As the guest crew come from far and wide for a once in a lifetime adventure, their expectations and desires are not something to be ignored, so long as they are reasonable. And, of course, fall into line with the way the master is thinking about the passage.

So, democracy at sea is a bit of an illusion. But there are limited routes through which a crew can be involved in aspects of “voyage planning.” Aboard Pride II this is a curious occurrence, not only because of its rarity, but due to historical significance. Like our ancestor privateers, who prowled the Atlantic for English ships at a heady pace under aggressive rigs, Pride II’s scheduled rate of advance allows little time to dawdle along, however intriguing the local landscape. We are either sailing hard and pushing for performance, or we are sullenly motoring to make our target speeds. But, in this case, we also resemble the privateers of 1812 in another regard – a hard case might be put to a vote.

Then, as now, this was a rare situation. A privateer seeing a fat merchant prize guarded by a hefty naval escort might have called a similar quarter deck muster among their crew, all of whom were in some respects share-holders in the enterprise. As the engagement might either yield great monetary gain, or absolute loss of life, there was a vote as to the relative worth of the gain versus the risk. Then, as now, the master reserved the right to veto.

Our situation wasn’t immediately life or death, though the forecasts deteriorated into more threatening weather shortly after the die was cast. And we all agreed to maximize the sailing, minimize the motoring and see the Apostles on another, more pleasant, day.

With a gift of Southeasterly breezes through the afternoon, we closed with the Southern Shore of Superior, sailed past the Apostle Islands and to Bark Point, Wisconsin – 40nm East of Duluth – before frequent wind shifts and increasing drizzle marked the onset of the weather to come. After 400nm of sailing, 280nm made good along the rhumbline, 15 tacks and 83 hours, Pride II started a steady motor to the safe harbor of Superior Wisconsin.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the snug in at Loon’s Foot Landing Crew of Pride II


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