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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