Bal­ti­more’s Pride II Is Hove-To … For Now

Soundings - - Bay Watch - By Gary Re­ich

Iwas a sopho­more in high school when Bal­ti­more’s sail­ing am­bas­sador, the clip­per Pride of Bal­ti­more, sank. A mi­croburst hit her about 250 miles north of Puerto Rico while she was re­turn­ing from Europe. The next year, Scott Jef­fries, one of the sur­vivors, served as our sub­sti­tute so­cial stud­ies teacher for a few weeks. Though he didn’t seek any at­ten­tion re­gard­ing the sink­ing, I did speak with him briefly af­ter class one day to learn what it was like sail­ing around the world on such a beau­ti­ful ship.

Af­ter high school I landed at Fawcett Boat Supplies in down­town An­napo­lis, Mary­land. I re­mem­ber smok­ing cig­a­rettes (yes, I’ve long since given them up) on the load­ing dock while watch­ing the Pride’s suc­ces­sor, Pride of Bal­ti­more II, grace­fully sail into the har­bor, blast­ing can­nons to an­nounce her ar­rival as her top­mast burgees and flags flut­tered in the wind. I spent lunch hours crawl­ing all over her, tak­ing in the smells of pitch and tung oil.

Al­most 20 years later, I now find my­self driv­ing along an in­dus­trial area in the Can­ton sec­tion of Bal­ti­more, dodg­ing con­tainer trucks and pot­holes that could swal­low a tank. I’m look­ing for an ad­dress when I see Pride II’s sharply raked but short­ened masts. She is tied up ad­ja­cent to an aban­doned wharf and cov­ered in a frame­work of build­ing lum­ber and white shrink wrap, her top­masts stowed.

The sight makes me frown. Forced into tem­po­rary layup by fi­nan­cial woes, Pride II dur­ing the late fall was stripped to the ba­sics and put into wet stor­age.

The orig­i­nal Pride, a replica of the swift and sea­wor­thy Bal­ti­more clip­pers used by pri­va­teers dur­ing the War of 1812, was launched in 1977 as a way to pro­mote Bal­ti­more and its re­ju­ve­nated In­ner Har­bor. Pride would spend nine years sail­ing 150,000 miles around the globe pro­mot­ing the city and the state of Mary­land be­fore she sank, killing her cap­tain and three crewmem­bers.

An out­pour­ing of pub­lic sup­port pushed Pride of Bal­ti­more Inc. — the non­profit that runs Pride II to­day — to go for­ward with plans for a new ship. Pride of Bal­ti­more II was de­signed by An­napoli­tan and Naval Acad­emy grad­u­ate Thomas Gillmer ( the naval ar­chi­tect who also drew Pride’s lines) and is 10 feet longer on deck than the orig­i­nal. Ship­wright Peter Boudreau headed up the con­struc­tion ef­fort, and on Oct. 23, 1988, Pride II launched at Brown’s Wharf in the Fells Point neigh­bor­hood. Miles says Pride II has, in her nearly 30 years, sailed more than 250,000 nau­ti­cal miles and vis­ited more than 200 ports in 40 coun­tries through­out the Amer­i­cas, Europe and Asia.

“We’re do­ing heat re­me­di­a­tion,” Miles says as we squeeze through a

small door in Pride II’s cover, which keeps the sun from beat­ing up not just her bright­work, but also her oakum-and-pitch-caulked decks. A stiff 30-knot north breeze blows though her from end to end as we sit down to talk.

“She’s bet­ter off in the water than on land,” Miles says. “If she was on land, she’d start de­te­ri­o­rat­ing and dry­ing out al­most im­me­di­ately.”

He points out a ther­mome­ter and notepad on deck, where vol­un­teers record tem­per­a­tures. Her top­masts and yards have been stored on land un­der cover. Be­low deck,

Pride II’s bilges and lock­ers have been left open to en­sure a con­stant flow of air and to re­duce con­den­sa­tion.

What put Pride II in this pickle is a com­pli­cated ques­tion, Miles says. “Tall ships are strug­gling, in gen­eral,” he says. “The schooner Vir­ginia was put up for sale in 2014 af­ter her pro­gram proved un­sus­tain­able with­out state fund­ing. The schooner Amer­ica ended up in Spain at one point, and the Spirit of South

Carolina was sold to a pair of pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als who do­nated her to the non­profit that runs her. Long story short, it’s very dif­fi­cult to sus­tain these ves­sels with­out fund­ing sup- port from the gov­ern­ment. It costs us about $1.2 mil­lion a year to keep Pride II sail­ing.”

Pride II re­ceived about $1.5 mil­lion from the state of Mary­land dur­ing the past three fis­cal years, he says — and the ship was get­ting quite a re­turn on that in­vest­ment. “We cal­cu­lated that at one point Pride II was worth as much as $13 mil­lion in me­dia cov­er­age for Bal­ti­more and the state of Mary­land,” he says.

A pos­si­ble lack of fund­ing forced Pride of Bal­ti­more Inc. to lay off all but es­sen­tial staff, in­clud­ing Miles. “There’s a bill in the Mary­land leg­is­la­ture for fund­ing Pride

II at $500,000 a year that eas­ily passed the Se­nate,” he says. “We hope it will go through the House eas­ily. The gov­er­nor has said he would sign it.” Still, $ 500,000 a year would leave Pride II well short of what is needed to rig her back up and get her sail­ing again. “I’m in a hold­ing pat­tern right now,” Miles says. “If they pass the fund­ing, we could have her rigged back up in about a month, but it would take prob­a­bly eight weeks to have her fully ready to de­ploy. If the fund­ing passes, we wouldn’t see the money un­til July at the ear­li­est. So for now, we wait.” In the mean­time, the crew is keep­ing Pride II ship­shape, and Miles is think­ing about what will hap­pen if the fund­ing fails to come through. “I’m not sure what we’ll do,” he says. “The ship has been such a source of pride for Bal­ti­more and Mary­land, and we’ve taken her around the world to share the area’s his­tory, cul­ture and peo­ple. I can’t imag­ine hav­ing to sell her or fully moth­ball her. We’ll cross that road when we get there.”

We hop off Pride II, and I can’t help but feel sad. I know she’s just a wooden ship. I know she’s ex­pen­sive to main­tain. But we can’t put a price on the mem­o­ries she’s cre­ated in peo­ple’s hearts and minds. “Is our pride for sale?” Miles asks as we say good­bye. I sure hope it isn’t. The state of Mary­land at press time passed the fund­ing res­o­lu­tion to sup­port

Pride II at $500,000 per year, but much more help is needed. You can do­nate to the cause at pride2. org, or vol­un­teer to help with the ship’s main­te­nance and up­keep by email­ing Miles at jan@ pride2. org. All skill lev­els are wel­come.

Pride of Bal­ti­more II dur­ing a visit to An­napo­lis, Mary­land.

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