"Welcomed" to Traverse City

September 2, 2010

2 September 2010
Pride of Baltimore II
Alongside Great Lakes Maritime Academy
Traverse City, Michigan
Wx: S Force 3, Overcast with light rain

Pride of Baltimore II just ended a “Welcoming” engagement into Traverse City, featuring the Armed Sloop Welcome from Maritime Heritage Alliance (link to www.mha.org). Welcome is a replica of a Revolutionary War vessel captured out of the American Merchant Service on the Lakes by the British and made into a Military Ship. The replica was launched during the American Bicentennial at Mackinaw City and, after falling into disrepair, was donated to MHA for a restoration.

With Welcome and Pride II exchanging salutes and other MHA vessels tagging along for photo ops, we had a great entrance to Traverse City, our first ever. Pride II’s entrance into Grand Traverse Bay, however was far less dramatic as we motored in under pouring rain Tuesday night, having lost all of our splendid breeze at sunset.

That’s right, Tuesday night. Leaving Chicago at 1400 EDT on Monday, we made it through the Manitou Passage by 2000 Tuesday. A total of 30 hours and four gybes (technically wares) on a downwind sleigh ride. The total distance covered under sail was about 220, with the actual distance sailed more like 260 with all the waring — an average speed of 8.6 knots.

Starting out well below this average, we had a pleasant sail away from the heat and crowds out into the open lake. With the Southerlies, we saw building seas and breezes as we sailed North. By Noon on Tuesday, Pride II was in a choppy 3-5 Great Lakes Sea, with breezes over 25 knots, still carrying everything but the stuns’l, which we’d taken in at sunset the night before. With the speed surging regularly over 10 knots, there didn’t seem much need to set it again. Pride II’s stuns’l and ringtail are egyptian cotton of very light weight, and so a bit delicate. When we are racing, we might risk carrying or setting them when the breeze is up. When we are not racing, the inclination to save them for the races is strong.

The weather was still hot, but Lake Michigan had taken on the apparance of an autumn gale, frothy and churning, the swell never consistent. We charged out toward the middle of the Lake, set up to make the Manitou Passage and gybed. The breeze kept surging up –- 26 knots, 27, 30. We took in the gaff tops’l to reduce the weather helm as we entered the Passage, the high dunes of Sleeping Bear and South Manitou seeming to funnel the wind, now gusting to Gale force. Pride II was flying, surfing down waves up over 13 knots.

Anticipating a need to gybe to clear Cathead Point in the north end of the passage, I decided on a double reef in the mains’l. Just before we started the process, Pride II surged up to 14.4 knots, the fastest I’ve ever seen her go. With the second reef in, we settled down to 12 knots with a much more manageable helm.

But then, not two hours after reefing, the breeze died out to 7 knots. Getting into the lee of the Leelenau Peninsula, the sea and wind subsided. Clouds started gathering, and the long range radar indicated some thunderstorms. The idea of ruining such a good sail with a night of drifting around in the rain was horrible, so we motored the 27 miles to Suttons Bay Michigan to anchor there at midnight.

Suttons Bay is an idyllic Northern Michigan town, tucked in a neat bowl of a deepwater harbor, it has good anchoring on a 30’ hump about mid-bay, and quaint down town and gorgeous landscape. Crystal clear water ends in pebbled or sandy beaches, then rolling green hills speckled with houses. The town of 600 people is also home to the Inland Seas Education Association(link to www.schoolship.org), which runs one of the best science education programs in the country aboard the schooner Inland Seas.

After a tending to the maintenance needs of the ship, the crew were sent ashore to explore the town and stretch their legs after such a brisk sail – the reward for working so hard on such a fast sailing schooner. For me, this was a special treat, as I worked as a Deckhand, then Mate for Inland Seas earlier in my career. The expansive volunteer core of the organization welcomed me in as if I were their son, or nephew back when I joined the ship in 2000, and I liked the place so much I stayed for two years – a rarity for deckhands there. In a life where we as sailors spend so much time on the move, finding a place that feels as much like home as Suttons Bay does to me is always a thrill.

I have not been back enough in the nine years since I left, though I did make a point of getting there last summer. The last time I actually sailed in was six years ago, as third mate of the Brig Niagara. The town has changed some – more condos and restaraunts than most of the citizens would like – and some of the volunteers have moved on or passed on. Even ISEA has changed its office from a cramped little rented space to an excellent new building with a woodshop, classroom and aquarium. But the feeling of the place is the same. The gorgeous park alongside the Inland Seas dock is still the same as I remember when I lived aboard the boat alone a decade ago.

The crew seemed to enjoy the place too. A few of them got as far afield as a custom Cidery up the road, run by a former Inland Seas cook. And, well rested at anchor they all made a fine show of exchanging salutes with Welcome this afternoon. Now, Traverse City awaits and we await its citizens. Pride II will be open more than expected to the public in this port, as the weather forecast is for horrid sailing conditions tomorrow. In Chicago, we had more people than the total population of Traverse City visit, so I suppose we are ready for them.

But first, the crew of Welcome want to “welcome” us to town again, this time with dinner instead of gunfire.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the thoroughly “Welcomed” crew of Pride II


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