It has not been a bad voyage, but certainly a difficult one. We have been pushed in so many ways both physically and mentally. Training new crews and losing them one they finally become a part othe ship is harder than I anticipated, but I at least can believe that I may see some of them out on the water again sometime. Failing that, perhaps we at least widened a few horizons which can rarely be called a bad thing.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
We are truly homeward bound. Niagara is back in lake Erie and is followinf a favorable breeze home. The engines are off and both stacks are set full for a down wind run. As we entered the lake a shot while after breakfast all hands were called to get her dresed the crew found new energy for one last big push. We set the sails ast with a zeal that I certainly haven't felt for a good while. The sence of homecoming may well have had something to do with it, along wth the promse of favorable wind and a following sea after our trals on lake Huron. It is as though this calm quiet sail is our reward for the challenges of the voyage behind us.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
After many hours of making and losing ground we have finally found our way to Port Huron where the crew has been given a quiet few hours of liberty while the conditions are assessed. The channel is narrow and while the winds have calmed some, the the chop and the current is certainly still intense. The crew is definitely tired but we are once again balancing our needs versus the schedule put before us.
All hands wakeups crossing Huron. We have been dodging, running from and running into storms all night. I have heard stories abou Huron being a rough lake,especially by the Saganaw bay but this was my first time experiencing it. Five to eight foot seas on a short chop with a very frsh breeze have been pushng us around and we have made very little headway till just recntly. somewhere in the early hours we were all called to deck because the sterm of the yawl boat was knocked free and we had to catch it before she was lost or damaged our rudder.
But now we are told that we are making good time and are about four hours from Port Huron and the mouth of the St. Claire. There may be another update later but for now it is time to sleep.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Solidly into lake Huron and it has been excitement. We crossed the Mackinac bridge at 2300 last night. As far as I can recall I have never personally seen that bridge during the day but it is a lovely sight in th dark. Because of the way it is lit it looks as though you are sailing off into the void. Personally I couldn't help but imagine someone up on the bridge... a kid in the back seat on a road trip seeing us ghosting under as they crossed. Thoughts like that tend to make me smile.
The lake opened up to strong winds and fairly heavy seas, getting up to five or six feet. Around lunch we were taking some solid spray over the bow and had put in the gunport covers to try and keep the force of it down. We have also been stowing, loosing, setting and striking sail quickly as the conditions and forcasts shift around us.
I've gotten a lot of experience with reefing sail this season and am finally comfortable with the lashing. I learned to do it on Pride but have not till recently really trusted myself with it. It is interesting seeing my own confidence growing, hopefully not unreasonably. I am also finding myself more at ease with training now that there are fewer people that need it.
As restful as it is without huge groups of trainees the boat is a bit more lonely without them. A bit quieter in a way that is bitter sweet. It makes me look forward even more to a day when I can pick my own crew and go as we please.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Under way once again and headed to Erie. All of the students are gone and we have a small crew entirely of people who have sailed with us before. It is a nice change of pace, not having to watch over every little detail of operatons. We recently passed sleeping Bear Dunes which is always a pretty sight. We sailed out of Port Washington in the early evening, getting sail set before we cleared the harbr. After we fired off our fairwell salute the dock called out fair winds to us. I can't recall a port ever doing that for us before. It is nice to feel like people do care about what it is we are doing.
Will,wo is the head of the hornet project that I am bcoming involved with is aboard for the voyage and we have had many long conversations about sail theory and sail training theory. As the project gets closer I find myself more and more excited to be a part of it.
But for now we are motor sailing at about ten knots with the squares set trying to make Huron before expected squalls drive up an angry sea for us to plunge through. Either way sounds like it could be interesting in my mind.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Now ashre in Port Washington after a few days of glorious sailing. For the first time in quite a spell we had the time to just sail and not worry about keeping a tight schedule. It was some outstanding sailing and the new kids took to it better than any of us thought possible. They showed dedication and zeal that we couldn't possibly have expected.
I am, however, looking forward to a sail with a crew that knows the boat and doesn't require constant training. It ma well be a weakness of my own character but for just a bit I would like to just sail. That isn't meant to belittle any of the trainees we have had this season, but it is a bit of a drain.
But for now I have my last goodbys say to the most recent batch and prepare for a festival here then the run back to Erie.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Under way yet again,from Chicago to Port Washington with a new group of students. Chicago was good, however long those days got to being. It was a little hard to lose our last batch, as they really became a part of the crew. their presence is missed on board, and I hope to see many of them again out saiing some day.
The new batch has us feeling cautiosly optimistic. It is another group of high school students which bring back less than thrilling memories. This batch shows some promise. It is only a four day trip however, so thwre is only so mch that can be accomplished. We may just try, however, to make make the most of it.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Sitting on Navy Pier in Chicago watching the fireworks welcoming us into town. The crew is worn from the voyage, though the last few days have had some of the best sailing of the season. The night we lft Alpna was beautiful and clear with a strong north breeze driving us down the lack. It was my last watch with Alpha watch; I couldn't have asked for a better one. The stars were brilliant, the setting moon was beautiful and there weremore shooting stars than one could ever hope to count.
Yesterday around lunch we pulled into Milwalkie for the day to rideout some projected weather. I was pretty i.pressed and look forward to future visits.
Today was a very long day and I will write moreon it later but for now I have a hammock to attend to.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Leaving Alpena after a bit of a delay but with the hope of sailing to be done as we head towards Chicago. Port was good, giving the crew a chance to relax and get laundry done. After the students finised wth their science work with the folks at NOAA most of us were given the chance to go snorkling over a schooner that wrecked on a sandbar nearby in the late 1700s. It was amazing to see it,and she was rather well preserved. It did have a bit of a weird feeling for me though; swimming around a wrecked sailing vessel did make me think a bit.
A few of the students seem to have been bitten and at least one is planning on staying on after the departure date if the Mate can find room for her. One more down.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Through the Detroit river and into the St. Claire. Driving upstream is always a challenge and moreso at night. I admit my own vigilence was lacking at a point or two during my turns at helm which is something I will have to put more into. It was a long watch requiring at last one pro crew on helm at all times. It mde for a couple hours. Our AB was on the bridge helping with navigation and I ended up running the deck when I wasn't on helm. It is something I need to get more comfortable with, but the tables were set and the oncoming watch was woken up in time for brakfast and we even got a quick deckwash in.
It has been an inense season and the crew is wearing down some from it. We are losing some hands in Chicago and hopefully some fresh blood in the crew will help our spirit. We could all use it.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
And again we find ourselves in Put In Bay for a brief visit. The students had a date with Stone Lab to do some trawling and look at things under a microscope so the crew got a bit of time off to relax.
Coming in last might was more than a little excitimg. We motor sailed across the lake and Aplha caught the weather change and pushed through the rain. The actual squall line hit as we were approaching Ballast Island, drenching us fairly deeply. All hands were calld for the docking and both cutters were cut away. Cutter one, per usal, was helping us dock while Cutter two had o row to safety as a second squall rushed in. We rushed to the dock as quickly as we could and got our lines on moments before the second blow. Once we were all secure the crew was stood down and many of us ended up at the playground blowing off a bit of steam.
Now we are at the mouth of the Detroit River Channel and Alpha will be taking back over at 0300 while in the river. By friday we will be in Alpina and then we head for Chicago. Much excitement awaits.
Monday, August 1, 2011
The voyage continues on towards Chicago. We are hours away from Erie to check back into the U.S. and then back en route. We are apparently going to stop in Put in Bay for an undecided period of time and a small town in wisconson whos name I can't recall along the way.
The crew is getting stronger by the day. The trainees are learning the boat quickly and well becoming part of the group. today,driving into a head sea a handfull of us stood at the bow takinghe spray and singing; riding Niagara as she plunged through the chop. I believe that they are startig to feel like they belong here and are acting more and more like they are crew. They are starting to pick up their swagger. It is amazing to see it really work.