On board NIAGARA for the final race
Posted by Tall Ships America on August 20, 2010
By Ben Rogers
We departed Green Bay yesterday, went alongside at Sturgeon Bay in the afternoon, and set to putting the main t’gallant mast back in order. The main truck is 118 feet high, and our anemometer set up adds another foot or so, which requires us to look hard and close at any bridge we have to cross under. For a lot of ports, this means backing off the backstays and shrouds, housing the main t’gallant mast six feet or so, leaving the t’gallant yard crossed, and lashing the heel tight to the topmast. Once we’re past the obstacle, we push the mast back up with the capstan, pop in the fid, and crank home all the stays and reseize the landyards. At first glance it is daunting, but in Niagara it becomes a neat routine in the back end of the season, and yesterday it happened during deckwash and below decks clean up.
Today we are racing. We took off at the start with single reefed tops’ls set. As Pride of Baltimore II shot past us we put on our t’gallants. When Denis Sullivan made a push for us, aloft we went and shook out those reefs, set royals, and soon enough had everyone getting smaller on our starboard quarter. Pride is still there stalking, just past dinner time. We are sailing hard and the crew are electric. Hopefully we get some luck from the wind, but it is forecast to back a bit and come more on our nose, which favors the schooners, so we are enjoying the ride and crossing our fingers.
Well, the wind went the way they said it would, and we couldn’t manage to weather the finish line, so tacking was in order, and we gave up ground to those fore-and-afters. Pride finished before us easily, but we gave her a good race most of the way down. She points like a wind-vane, and we point like a brig. A slick brig, but a brig nonetheless. It is only fair, since the race from Duluth was so much to our liking, and the sailing has been a blast in both races for us. Rarely does Niagara get to turn loose like she has the past few weeks. For the next couple days we’re tied up in Milwaukee to get some needed maintenance done, spin the compass, etc. Herbie Hancock is playing here Friday. I am going.