Superior Sleigh-ride and a Secluded Sunset

July 13, 2011

13 July 2011 2135 EDT
Pos: 46 58.6’N x 090 48.1’W
At Anchor off Raspberry Island, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Twenty four hours ago off the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula PRIDE of BALTIMORE II came through stays for the fifth and final time in her efforts to round the northern end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Once sail was passed she was on a course to lay Duluth close-hauled, still carrying all plain sail and the T’gallant. Then the West-Northwest wind became a true Northwest and gave us the opportunity to ease the sails out from strapped in tight and let her rip. She was hovering in the mid nine knot range on a close reach when the wind veered further and increased to just over 20 knots. With a beam reach and relatively flat water, she quickly surged up to 10.7 knots and stayed over 10 for nearly six hours.

It is hard to describe the power and exhilaration of a sailing vessel charging along in conditions like that. If you’ve ever ridden a track horse you might empathize. Better yet if you’ve ever had the experience of riding such a horse with just a halter and not a bridle. The sensation of having control, but working hard to exercise the fact of that control, is similar. The ship at that point is, both literally and figuratively, a beast. Every evolution takes increased brute strength and additional mechanical advantage. Tackles are clapped on to existing multi-fold purchase gear. Then as many bodies as can get hands on the tackle sweat, grunt and chant for everything they’re worth. Success are recorded and called out in inches with coordinated repetitions of explosive group energy.

Once all the trimming and tinkering is done — the pace set, so to speak –the humming energy of sailing is felt through the ship. No place more than at the helm where the excitement of control and the weight of responsibility balance out to a feeling that the phrase “King of the World” falls a bit shy of capturing. But standing at the weather rail, propped up high by the angle of heel, or carefully walking the steep and surging slope of deck, there is a sense of real joy in being aboard. Even below, or in your bunk, hearing the million pieces of wood in her hull creak and groan to the rhythm of water rushing past outside, you might wake up, startled for an instant, and then smile to yourself with the sheer rush of it all.

Sad thing is ideal conditions rarely last forever. By the eight am watch change however, things began to lighten up and though we had made it to within 100nm of Duluth on our overnight run, not even the stuns’l and the rarely used ringtail could keep us moving. At eleven, the wind literally wound itself down, clocking through at least 720 degrees at three knots as it did and sending PRIDE II on a dizzying hunt for a heading. After a ninety minute period where PRIDE II once went faster backwards than she ever did forward, we were completely becalmed and had to use engines for the first time in over 165 nautical miles.

With little to get excited about in the forecast for the day or night, we made for an anchorage off Raspberry Island one of the smallest in a gorgeous chain of uninhabited national treasures off the Wisconsin shoreline. Last year we had to pass by these Apostle Islands due to impending weather, but as I write the crew are ashore exploring in the seemingly endless daylight of these Superior evenings – all the more so since we have not changed the clocks to Central Daylight Savings Time, even though we are technically in the next time zone. We’ll save that detail as one more among all the others to be handled when we reach Duluth. For now, the ship is snug at anchor, the breeze is light and the scenery is spectacular here at the West end of navigable waters.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the Island hopping crew of PRIDE II


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