Lady Patty at the 2009 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race

Hi all,

As the 11th of October gets nearer I can’t help but think about my  first trip up for the start of the race aboard Lady Patty. It was one of the wettest, coldest, windiest days of October and one of the funnest, fastest and most exhilarating sails of the season.

We heard from our guests the night before the trip and they were having some serious doubts about whether the trip the next day was going to be fun. We normally don’t cancel reservations for in climate weather unless the forecast is danger-bad, which usually only happens when T-storms and lightning are imminent. However, in this case my guests we nervous and I certainly don’t want to lose friends over a crummy day on the water so we agreed to postpone their sail. I understand that a brisk two-hour sail in a slight drizzle can still be fun. I also realize that a all-day trip in driving rain and chilly temps sucks if you don’t have the appropriate foul weather gear. Hell, it can suck either way.

We had nothing better to do on race day so PJ and I packed a lunch, loaded up the camera kit and headed out for the race. It was a wet slog up the bay into 15-18K of sustained wind with rain but we had fun anyway.
Once we reached the Bay Bridge the schooners were staging for the start. After chewing up some film(yes, actual film) we noticed the Pride of Baltimore II making her way down from Baltimore. We headed North to get up close for some pics. I absolutely love the sight of a classic ship under sail and it made the day worth while to me.

The wind was still sporty, the seas we building and we were motor-sailing just enough off the wind to keep her sails from luffing until we were just ahead of the PoB2 when we fell off on a port reach and a parallel course to her’s.

PoB2 was still under limited sail and we were holding our own for a minute until POP, a stay sail snapped up, POP another piece of dacron, then another and another. You’ll notice I quit referring to them by name because I don’t know them all.

Either way, with each new sail set she accelerated a bit more. Soon we were being overtaken on our fastest point of sail so I started the motor and started throttling up. After a minute I realized that we were wide open and still being run down. By this time the ship had her full set of sails up and had sped up to an impressive turn of speed. She slid past us like we were dragging an anchor and the sound of the water on her hull was awesome!

We were not in the race and by the starting gun were well behind the PoB2 but it seemed to us that she hit the starting line with full sail at full speed and was off to about as good of a start as a boat could hope for.
We sailed along with some of the smaller schooners but never again saw anything but the ass-end of the black hulled clipper from Baltimore. Me saying it was impressive doesn’t quite do it justice. I was blown away by the speed of that two-hundred year old design. No wonder the British blockades were at a loss to stop those ships. The Baltimore Clipper truly shaped the outcome of the war and helped to cement the United States as a country.

That short encounter with the Pride of Baltimore II made the entire day of shivering at the helm and eating wet p,b&j worth while and a memory that I revisit often.

Cheers!

Jeff

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