Whether you’re an armchair adventurer or a captain with decades of seafaring experience, there’s one thing that’s universally acknowledged: Sailing vessels are breathtakingly pretty. (Especially Pride of Baltimore II.)
But Pride II is more than just a photo op. In addition to the gorgeous images we’ve been sharing from our archives, we wanted to use Pride II’s anniversary as an opportunity to talk shop. We rarely get the chance to discuss what happens when a ship is launched and how it differs from a ship’s commissioning, for instance, but the nuances are actually quite fascinating.
A ship’s commissioning, according to Wikipedia, “is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service.” Essentially, this is the day where the appointed officials say, “Hey, go be a boat.”
When Pride II was commissioned, among the thousands in the crowd were important officials, including a clergyman and the commander of the USS Baltimore. Captain Miles was instructed by the commander to “assume command of the Pride of Baltimore II and place in her commission,” to which Captain Miles responded, “Aye, aye, sir. I am in command. Pride of Baltimore II is now in commission.” Up went the flags and off she sailed, the first part of her maiden voyage ending in Bermuda.
When a vessel is commissioned, it already has a name and is already in the water — this happens at the launch. The launch is the transferring of a vessel to the water. (Pride II was launched on April 30, 1988 after 18 months of construction.) Also at the launch, a bottle of champagne may be broken over the bow as the ship’s name is announced aloud. (Helen Delich Bentley had this honor for Pride II.)
In the time between launch and commissioning, there are sea trials, or test drives for a boat. These trails allow the captain and crew to test the design of the ship, as well as the equipment. Not to mention, sailing a traditionally rigged vessel such as Pride II is very different than sailing a more modernly equipped vessel.
Commissioning is the vessel’s last stop on the road to her maiden voyage. The launch may be the bigger celebration, but the commissioning is when the party really starts.