Superior SkiesJuly 26, 2011
Pos: 46:47.6’ N x 085:36.9’ W, 7 Nautical Miles North of Muskallonge Lake, Michigan
Wx: WNW F 4, Clear, with a sky full of stars
Sailing under Fores’l, Foretops’l, Stays’l and Jib at 7 knots
PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II is spending what seems like her final night in Lake Superior for 2011 sailing along happily with a steady West Northwesterly breeze. Simply writing the words “steady” and “breeze” together may just jinx us, but I have a feeling this time it will hold. This time.
Our weekend in Marquette was a great one. Starting off with Grand Arrival of short tacking up the Lower Harbor in company with our sister Privateer LYNX, crowds of onlookers gave a warm welcome to this excellent Michigan Harbor town. The Maritime Festival was well-attended and we enjoyed the hospitality of our friends from the Michigan Maritime Museum and aboard Marquettes official Flagship COASTER II a charming little family run schooner that we got to know when they were in our Flight for the Duluth Parade of Sail last year. With all three schooners underway together all three nights of the festival, Marquette Harbor took on the feel of another time. Though Baltimore Privateers were never a historic feature of Marquettes Sailing Era, this principal port of Michigans Iron Mining lands once saw scores of schooners sailing in and out.
By Monday morning, however, it was time to go. At muster, the wind was a light Southeast, despite the forecasts for West at 10-15 knots. As we prepared to depart Marquette the breeze shifted to the predicted values and allowed PRIDE II to make a departure under sail. With our sister privateer LYNX following along, we cleared the breakwater and set everything, including the Stuns’l and T’gallant, only to have the breeze fade a few hours later. With miles to go, we grudgingly turned on the engines and motored with a good deal of sail still set in the hopes of finding a breeze again.
With its larger than life scale yet completely landlocked placement, Lake Superior has some wildly unexpected weather. Trying to pin-point what conditions will be in three hours, let alone over several days, must lead forecasters to a great deal of hair pulling and shoulder shrugging. After two weeks of sailing here, we certainly empathize!
Breathlessly, our route took us along the shore and threading through Grand Island Harbor, off Munising, Michigan, where tree crowned rocky cliffs stood bold along both sides of the ship. Though a few miles out of the way, the passage was a worthwhile detour, and tantalized the crew for the spectacle of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which lays just East of Grand Island.
In the shelter of the island, the faint breeze faded to nothing and we hoped there might be something workable once PRIDE II was back on the open Lake. There were distant squalls to the North and South on the radar, though nothing of threat immediately nearby. Clearing Sand Point and into the Northeastern reach of the passage, however, a drysquall gave us gusts in excess of 30 knots and had the crew scrambling as we shortened down to a manageable plan of just the Foresl and Staysl. Eventually, we took in even those, as the wind veered Northeasterly. Nearly as quickly as it had come on, the squall faded to a faint Easterly, leaving behind only a remnant chop.
With the excitement of the squall subsided, the crew and guest crew took in the drama of Pictured Rocks. For miles, the shore is sheer sand stone and limestone, stratified layers of brown, purple and sandy blonde, inset with caves and arches that centuries of Superior winters and storms have smashed in with waves and bored out with ice. In the late afternoon light, with sun focused through fissures in the clouds, the rocks nearly gleamed in places. A line of cumulonimbus far to the south piled on the intensity of the image.
Now, out in the dark of the early morning on the open lake, PRIDE II weaves her way eastward. The next watch change we will wear ship toward Whitefish Bay, leaving the open Lake behind us, likely for a couple of years. We have sailed much of it, often times puzzled and frustrated by the erratic weather. And like everyone who has ever sailed Superior should do, we will leave with sense of wonderment and a healthy respect for this mightiest of the Lakes.
Captain Jamie Trost and crew of PRIDE of BALTIMORE II