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Sleeping Ship Dreams for a Bright Future

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II, Layed up at her Winter Berth
South Clinton Street, Baltimore, Maryland
Wx: Heavy Rain, but unseasonably warm, wind S F 3

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II is tucked in for a long winter’s nap, so to speak. With not only the spars, sails, rigging, safety and accommodation gear off loaded, but the guns and life rafts removed as well, she seems large and lonely. Under the opaque shrink-wrap cover, the deck from house top to house top is uninterrupted by clutter, while below PRIDE II – her bunks cleared out, her shelves stripped bare – is like an empty house.

This scene would be more than a bit forlorn if it weren’t for the winter crew diligently working on the dormant ship. So far, Assistant Sarah Whittham has been seeing to the blocks and spars with first time PRIDE II Winter Maintenance Crew Rohan Rao alongside. Their work goes on mostly in to shrink-wrapped shelters ashore, nicknamed “The Hobo Tent” (after our acclaimed Hobo Band of a few seasons back) and “New Sparlandia,” the latest rendition of our PVC framed Spar House. After the collapses we suffered last winter, this version has a bit more wood in the structure. Tonight’s forecast snow and wind will be the first real test of the season for the improvements.

Aboard the ship Emily Gustavsen – new to PRIDE II, but well seasoned in the fleet – patiently works at removing deck fittings in preparation for sanding and oiling to preserve the aging Douglas Fir planking and keep in going another 23 years or more. Below, Engineer John Pickering already has the port engine suspended for some maintenance underneath.

A small crew, for now. Next week we will have a few more hands and be up to six crew, the number for a normal winter. On the War of 1812 Bicentennial eve, however, PRIDE II and Pride of Baltimore, Inc. are expecting this to be anything BUT a normal winter.

Set aside for a moment the upcoming commemoration of the conflict PRIDE II is historically evocative of, and all the associated excitement, anticipation and anxiousness associated with the lead up to her starring role. Our role in the War of 1812 Bicentennial is a story that will largely write itself: People love anniversaries and go to great ends to mark them with meaningful ceremonies. Since PRIDE II is among the handful of 1812 style vessels in the country and, of that small fleet, easily the most versatile and farthest ranging, her presence will quite naturally be requested at many of the anniversary events of the next three years.

Don’t get me wrong, we at Pride, Inc. are excited beyond compare that PRIDE II seems likely have such a prominent role in the Bicentennial events. But to borrow a phrase originating in the musket-technology of 1812, we don’t want this focus to be a “flash in the pan.” Instead, we are making moves to ensure the exposure and fanfare we receive during these historical anniversaries is not a peak, but plateau or, better yet a step. A step towards an increased presence and recognition, not just in the American and International Maritime Community, but to the people in our own homeport of Baltimore.

I say increased, but renewed is closer to the mark. PRIDE II, after all, owes her very existence to the people of Baltimore. When PRIDE OF BALTIMORE was lost and both the City of Baltimore and Pride, Inc. thought it best to close up shop, it was the citizens of Baltimore who insisted that their PRIDE be rebuilt, both figuratively and literally. The CITIZENS. Not politicians or mariners or historians, but the people as a whole didn’t just ask for, but demanded, a new ship. For all PRIDE II has done in her 23 years, for all her awards and accolades, for all the press and dignitaries she’s wowed, for all the miles sailed and people’s imaginations she’s sparked, if she were to slip beneath the surface tomorrow, we at Pride, Inc. could not in our wildest imagination expect a public out cry for another ship.

How could we? These are trying times, economically speaking. For a non-profit running a traditional wooden sailing ship that would be hard pressed to cover its own expenses, let alone support the rest of the organization, times are always at least a little trying. In fact, part of the reason PRIDE II’s stock has fallen locally is that she is more successful at generating income far a-field than at home and so has often been away to do business. And the current financial crisis has put even more acute pressure on our fleet. Everywhere we see PRIDE II’s sister ships tied up and not sailing, or even for sale. No longer benefiting from State of Maryland support, and now owned fully by Pride, Inc., PRIDE II has kept above water largely due to wise investing and future-planning decisions made by Pride, Inc.’s original Board of Directors. But any plan for a continuing future needs focus on re-establishing our local relevance.

Sure, donations are key. But donations don’t just magically appear on their own. A donation is an investment, not in something you hope to gain from, but in something that inspires you, something you want to inspire others. Not a single dollar has ever been donated without at least a passing flash of inspiration. And while PRIDE II has inspired thousands, perhaps even millions, we mean to make that inspiration lasting, ingrained, a fact of life for our home port.

“Great,” you say, “but how?” For starters, this Saturday will mark the start of PRIDE II’s first-ever volunteer program. In nearly two and a half decades of PRIDE II history, hundreds of eager people have expressed an interest in volunteering, but, sadly, we had no real system to get them involved. No longer. We’re developing a system – likely to be ever-evolving – and so far nearly three dozen people have answered our “Call to Arms.” This infusion of excitement and interest in PRIDE II is a big step back toward the public eye. And it’s not stopping there.

With help – fingers crossed – from a grant we hope to be awarded, PRIDE II also hopes to reinstitute educational programming in the 2012-13 Academic Year, but with a new program tailored specifically to the Baltimore Schooners, the Chesapeake Bay and the role Maryland citizens played in the War of 1812. It has been too long since Maryland’s Students were regular visitors to PRIDE II.

Just like the ship herself, under cover and seemingly dormant, but actually fair teeming with the toil of the crew both aboard and ashore, there is a whole lot shakin’ at Pride, Inc.! Next year the War of 1812 Bicentennial spotlight will shine our way, and like the fifteen star, fifteen stripe ensign still waving over Fort McHenry after the Battle of Baltimore, we intend to inspire long after the guns fall silent.

All best,
Jamie Trost, Captain