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Wind from the Windy City

Posted by Tall Ships America on October 8, 2013

We continue to play catch up from our summer events. Here is Brian’s recap of the final race of the series out of Chicago…

The mood on the ship seemed a little down as crew on Sorlandet had to say good-bye to a number of volunteers and crewmembers in Chicago. After many months working with each other it was now time for everyone to start going their separate ways. It was sad to see our shipmates leave, but we still had one more race to go in the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Race Series.  This was also my last sail with the fleet this summer, so I was hoping for a great sail.

After a late departure on Monday we said farvel (as the Norwegians would say) to Chicago. Many people hoped that it wouldn’t take another 80 years for Sorlandet to return to Chicago. As we made our way past the breakwaters the crews prepared the sails for the start of the race. Dark clouds loomed in the distance making us all leery that at any moment we might have to take in sail. That whole morning we had been receiving conflicting weather reports, so we were unsure of what was going to happen out on the lake. However, a good sailor should be prepared for any kind of weather, and this was another test to see how ready we were. 

Before we even had sails set the wind changed direction on us. At this point we had the engine off and we were able to let the wind point us in the right direction, which was conveniently going north. The first officer was delighted at how this maneuver went, and made sure we quickly set sail to start the race.  

The wind kept changing as we set sail. One second we would be sailing along at five knots in the direction we wanted, and the next second the sails would be backing. This made my time on the helm difficult and it was annoying for the people hauling on the braces. The wind eventually made up its mind and we were able to sail north towards the finish line. 

As soon as we had started sailing north the storm cloud that had been looming off in the distance had made its way over us. Our watch continued trimming the sails so we could get as much power out of them as possible. Soon it was pouring rain and after a quick break to put on some foul weather gear we were back outside to trim. 

Soon the wind was so great that we had to take in t’gallant. In the wind and the rain we carefully made our way up the mast. I definitely spent a little more time going aloft since everything was wet and slippery. By the time we had made it to the t’gallant the rain had stopped and the sun had come out. The warmth from the sun was a nice treat after holding on to the cold metal. 

The sky cleared as we sailed into the night. However, as I slept in my bunk that night I felt an unfamiliar sensation. The ship was rocking from side to side, and we were actually heeling over. I hadn’t walked on a rocking deck since my time on the Atlantic. That next morning I got up on deck and we were cutting through five to six foot swells. Now these weren’t the biggest swells I’ve been through, but it was a little unusual considering the lakes have been relatively calm for the summer. 

I would be on galley duty that second day. As the cook and I fought to stay upright, we both were feeling a little under the weather that day, which was strange because both of us had been in worse seas. Despite the sea state we still had people to feed, so this is where our teamwork triumphed. When one of us needed to go outside for some air, the other was inside preparing the food, and then we would switch. This tag team system would work for us the rest of the day. 

When I had a little bit of free time I was able to sit with one of the trainees. He told me stories of what the lakes are like in November. Over the years November has been known for the roughest seas on the Great Lakes, damaging or sinking hundreds of ships. Waves and winds comparable to hurricanes are common. The trainee also informed me that some people make light of these conditions and go surfing. 

Having finished the race that day we made our way to Green Bay. Due to the less than ideal wind direction the race was shortened to eight nautical miles. It was now time to get the ship ready for the next port and relax a little. We also started getting the ship ready for the next group of Class Afloat students that would be getting on after Green Bay. There was much to do and it was best to get a head start. 

Over the next few days, since there wasn’t much wind, we motored to Green Bay. This quiet interlude gave me a chance to rest and reminisce over my summer. I was definitely sad to be leaving the ship and the crew. However, that what sailing is all about. You meet new people and then go your separate ways. All with the hope that you will one day meet again.

To see photos from the Tall Ships(R) Chicago event at Navy Pier, visit our Flickr page

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