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Of Duels and Daysails

3 July 2011
Pos: Alongside Buffalo’s Erie Canal Harbor
Wx: West F 3, Sunny
Captain Trost at the helm in Buffalo.

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II’s visit in Buffalo has been the cause of much excitement and interest so far. From the moment we rounded the point into Erie Canal Harbor the film has been rolling and the cameras flashing. Crowds have gathered nearly constantly in the park next to the dock. Sometimes they come for concerts, but more often they line up to tour PRIDE II. Last night they watched the crew furl and secure for the night – every step of the process receiving a round of applause.

In fact, Buffalo is so enamored of PRIDE II that all six of her daysails here have been completely sold out! This is a great sign for the future development of Erie Canal Harbor into a tourist destination similar to Baltimore’s own Inner Harbor. Hopefully the enthusiasm will carry on for our return visit in September and also have people exploring Buffalo Harbor aboard their own local ship SPIRIT of BUFFALO.
The Challenge

The enthusiasm on the dock reached a completely unforeseen and novel level before yesterday’s sail. After PRIDE II closed for tours, a man clad in full British Naval costume stood on the promenade above the dock and called me out with formal English inflection and pronouncing my name – either out of increased stage drama or unfamiliarity — in the German fashion as if there were an umlaut over the “O.” He demanded, with a rattling of his saber and increasing attention from the crowd, that I produce PRIDE II’s Letter of Marque and Reprisal, else he would “see me hanged as a common pirate.”

These types of theatrics and costumery are amusing at appropriate times, and in small doses. This was as appropriate a time as any, and the crowd was certainly amused. As a rule, the crew and captains of PRIDE II do not wear historic costume, and are never “in character.” We go to sea in EMULATION of Captains Thomas Boyle and Joshua Barney and all the sailors whose sweat, toil, craft and craftiness made their indelible mark on the history of the War of 1812, and forever etched Baltimore and her Schooners into maritime lore. But we do not IMMITATE, or re-enact, anything. The weather, the wind and waves, the stability and all the concerns of going to sea in a wooden boat are as real for us as they were for the Privateers in 1812. We, of course, have vastly advanced navigation equipment and auxiliary power, but we also have the scrutiny of official regulations and fixed schedules. To dress and act the part would trivialize the realities of our constant nautical archeological experimentation in sailing one of these sleek and powerful Baltimore Schooners.

The Vanquished

Additionally, in our case, the SHIP is the centerpiece. PRIDE II herself is, and should be, the focus of attention for the onlooking crowd. A lofty rigged and gorgeous Baltimore Schooner is far more interesting than any or all of her crew in historic dress and watching PRIDE II charge into a harbor under a press of canvas is much better show than any staged exchange imaginable. We play the supporting cast to our ship, and are happy to do so. But none of this means we aren’t opposed to having a bit of fun ourselves.

I told our decorated British “adversary” that the Letter of Marque was below. It, in fact, is, but framed and fastened to the bulkhead aft of the main saloon table. Instead of fetching the Letter, I took the only course available – I went to my cabin, retrieved the Nerf Pistol I received as a jovial birthday present by Captain LeeAnne Gordon of the Schooner LYNX, and challenged our man to a duel. We agreed to ten paces, had a young boy in the crowd count them out, then turned and “fired.” His was a non-firing pistol. The Nerf dart went ten feet. My adversary fell, croaking out “for England” as he fell. I helped him to his feet and the crowd applauded.
The Truce
The Truce

Turns out it was an issue of frustration that led to our British friend’s outburst. He had wanted to book a sail aboard, but tickets were sold out before he could. He was, I should note, an excellent sport about the whole thing. I encouraged him to try again in September, when we’d return for Labor Day Weekend.

We parted amicably, but as PRIDE II motored out of Erie Canal Harbor for her afternoon sail, he appeared on the shore once more, taunting and jeering. Swearing his revenge and triumph. Adding an appropriate dose of color at exactly the appropriate time. And then we flashed out the fores’l, sheeted home the tops’l and let PRIDE II start her own show.

All best,
Jamie Trost, Dueling Captain aboard PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II