Captain's Log: Welcome Aboard, Jordan

So, I’m the new guy. About one month ago, I joined Pride of Baltimore as one of her two captains. As many of you know, Jan Miles, the other guy, has been with the organization since before this vessel was built, which was during a period something like 350 months ago. Needless to say, I have a little catching up to do.

All of the other tall ship commands I have held — indeed, just about any job I have ever held, doing anything — offered little, if any, orientation or training. On one square-rigger, I had an overlap of three days with a departing captain. On another schoonerIMG_2804, I was given a walk-through by a departing delivery captain, for about an hour. Then, I was given the keys. With a couple of others, there was nothing at all, except for the address of where the ship was docked. With most tall ships of the size and type found in this country, this approach, while possibly not ideal, can be forgiven. What the vessels are (their rig, sailing qualities, systems, handling characteristics, and maintenance requirements) and what they do (day trips, education programs, windjammer cruises, sail training, or some mix thereof) are straightforward enough that extensive training for an otherwise qualified ship’s master isn’t needed. In the world of tall ships, such training therefore becomes standard operating procedure.

However, when it comes to Pride of Baltimore, the complexity of what she is and what she does argues against this approach.

A high-spirited racehorse

Captain Miles uses this analogy to describe Pride II, and it is apt. As a sailing vessel, she is immensely powerful, fast, weatherly, and capable. This power has a price tag, however. If most tall ships can be likened to patient draft horses, who will simply stop in their tracks if too much is asked of them, then Pride II is indeed a racehorse, who will toss her head, snort angrily, and give you the ride of your life if you’re not careful.

I have a long background in racing and performance sailing, which has exposed me to many different varieties of similarly high-spirited craft, so I at least have an innate understanding and intuition of what she is. But, as with any such sailing craft, the key with Pride II is to gain an understanding of her sail plan, her characteristics, and her crew, so that you can exploit her full capabilities without asking too much and getting that unlooked-for wild ride. To do this via trial and error would be an extremely elaborate way of playing Russian roulette.

For that reason alone, this organization affords us significant “overlap” time for new captains, but it’s an overlap of a different sort. Most of the time in the tall ship world, you take command of a vessel, and the other fellow leaves, with varying but small amounts of orientation. Then you work, with scattered or nonexistent relief, until you’re done, and hand the keys to the next guy. Pride II has almost always operated with two full-time captains, who alternate on a basis that can vary but is often bi-monthly (two months in command of the ship, and two engaged in shore support). So, this “overlap” simply means that both captains are on the ship. No one’s leaving after this — one of us will simply move to shore support for a couple of months. It’s an opportunity for me to watch, and learn, and basically be an information sponge; Captain Miles, after all, knows this ship about as well as it is possible to know any ship.

What verb goes with “ambassador”?

Sail training ships train. School ships teach. Day sail ships entertain. Pride II is not a sail training ship, but we do some of the other two. What we mainly are, though, is the travelling ambassador of the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore. We are a living, operating representation of a type of ship that made the Chesapeake and the city of Baltimore famous. A simple log entry isn’t sufficient to really describe how you do that, but suffice to say it isn’t simple. Pride II’s mission is more multifarious than I have encountered before — she does more different things, she travels more, she is better known. And so, it’s not simply a matter of developing an education program and doing it well, or developing a few day sail routes and doing those well. It is those things, but it is doing those things in a number of different ports all over the world. It is the logistics of travelling to, and operating in, those ports, and it is representing our state and home port by interacting with local governments and business interests wherever we go.

So, I’ve much to learn, but I assure you it is not boring.

Captain Jordan Smith

Captain's Log: Dry-Docking

Currently, Pride of Baltimore II is moored alongside Ocean Marine Yacht Center in Portsmouth, Virginia. Arrived early afternoon Sunday, April 10th. It is sunny, clear, and warmer here than it has been since the little bit of winter blasted across the East Coast Saturday night. Pride II got underway around 5 p.m. Saturday and motored overnight to Ocean Marine. Yes, there was a lot of wind, and it was more or less favorable being out of the west to northwest. But it was not a reasonable sailing trip for the cold, the blustery-ness of gusts to around 40 knots, nor the deep black dark of night.

jan dockingSo, with wind abaft the beam giving Pride II both a push and a lean to port with wind pressure upon the “bare poles” of her complicated rig, we motored down the Bay. The ship got to rolling quite a bit after midnight crossing the mouth of the Potomac River after the wind softened some. A flooding current against what was still 20-25 knots of wind created a significant enough Chesapeake Bay sea to have the ship rolling both ways rather than leaning only to one side as she normally would had she had some sail up. Stuff not stowed for sea clattered around. The crew will learn about proper storage. Yep, they sure will. Considering this year’s campaign into the Great Lakes will take the ship and them out into the Atlantic. And the Great Lakes can get her sea up quite a bit as well.

Rig-up has been a bit different this year. Sorta quick on the one hand, while very atypically busy on the other.

Being quick with rig-up enabled the ship to be provided the honor of delivering from Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine a very special cargo in March. Before this Pride II was blessed by Archbishop Lori and then tasked with carrying the Liberty Tree Cross. A special cross forged from the roots of a tree that was once a meeting place for early American revolutionaries, and a symbol of religious freedom. She transported the Liberty Tree Cross to St. Mary’s City for a special commemoration. The festive event commemorated the return of three unique lead coffins interred in the Jesuit chapel between 1667 and 1704. Over the course of 25 years, collaborative support of the St. Mary’s research team (directed by Henry Miller, PhD) stretched from the Smithsonian to NASA and culminated in the return of the coffins to their initial resting place. The historic profile and the forensic evidence leads to the conclusion that the coffins held the bodies of Philip Calvert (a key leader in seventh-century Maryland) his wife Anne, and a female child – possibly Phillip’s child from a second marriage after Anne’s death.  A reconstruction of the original chapel currently stands in its original location and the gold leaf Liberty Tree Cross will top the dome of the reconstructed tabernacle. It was an honor for Pride II to participate in this remarkable event whose audience drew people from all parts of the state and attracted formal comments by political leaders such as Senator Mike Miller.

A new tradition was maintained with the second visit in three years to Annapolis for Maryland Day. Both Governor Hogan and Lieutenant Governor Rutherford were given personal tours of the ship. In addition, a public ceremony was held on City Dock announcing an educational partnership between Pride of Baltimore, the National Park Service, the Star-Spangled National Historic Trail, and Fort McHenry. The plan: educate hundreds of Maryland students throughout the spring and fall with a portion of the programming being conducted aboard Pride II.

We were also a part of the inaugural Light City Festival in Baltimore, a celebration of music, light, and innovation that sported large-scale light installations throughout the Inner Harbor. Pride II was featured on the cover page of Afro Times all lit up, surrounded by audiences dancing and celebrating. Every evening for seven evenings from March 28 through April 3, the Inner Harbor was crowded with thousands of visitors listening to music, and watching imaginative light shows and entertainers. I cannot remember so much after-dark activity in the Inner Harbor. There was much fun being had by all.

Going forward, it is dry-dock time. Get Pride II out of the water for underwater hull work. The simple stuff is clean and paint. The complicated stuff is reinforcing the ship’s caulking. A team of caulkers is coming to attend to Pride II. This type of work is required every dry-docking, to at least a maintenance degree, but occasionally a diligent reinforcing degree. Meaning a number of full-length hull seams are hardened up with new caulking made up of specially prepared naturally-grown fiber called oakum. Once pounded in between two planks, the crew paints the seams to lock the new oakum in place. Then, they putty over by filling the remaining depth between planks with seam compound and smooth it out in line with the surface of the hull for fast sailing. There are also lots of other things done while the ship is out of the water. Check the propellers and shafts, check thru-hull fittings, and knock off any loose paint and patch paint any bare wood. Once all of the preparations are completed, the yard comes and covers the bottom with two fresh coats of bottom paint and a third coat along the waterline. There is always care of other ship items, such as cleaning the anchor chain and painting on marks for certain lengths, replacing zincs to protect the metal in the water, to name a few additional things.

Rig-up, the re-commissioning of the ship, the active campaign of Pride II representing Maryland, this is all a part of getting our new ship’s partner captain, Jordan Smith, up to speed. There is certainly a lot to absorb when one considers the complexity and uniqueness of the ship, as well her mission. Dry-dock is as important to the ship as is sailing the ship well, safely, and telling the story of Maryland’s sailing ambassador.

The plan is for Pride II to return to Maryland waters at the end of April for an active month of May. Wish us good weather and speedy progress.

 

Signed,

Jan C. Miles, Captain