Liaison's in Savannah ~ A Tale of Dedicated Assistance and Good Humor

Early Wednesday morning finds PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II becalmed midway between Winyah Bay and the finish line off the end of Frying Pan Shoal. While we wait for the return of wind, I found myself reflecting upon our new friends ~ PRIDE’s liaison officers from Savannah.

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II’s attendance at Savannah’s Tall Ships Challenge Port Festival was graced by a group of tireless and humorous Savannah volunteer “Liaison” officers….Bill, Lisa, Ray and Stuart. What is a Tall Ship Challenge Port Festival Liaison Officer? Why is that a good thing for a visiting tall ship to a port festival? Port festivals arranged in partnership with Tall Ships America, a membership based national entity that organizes Tall Ship Challenge Race events on behalf of sail training vessels from around the country as well those tall ships visiting from around the world; provide local knowledge assistance to the visiting ships as well crowed control for the festival.

Local knowledge assistance to visiting ships is a wonderful service! Every visiting ship has needs after a voyage. Getting those needs met without the presence or availability of locals to assist can be very challenging. Just having locals helping to determine if a particular need is available locally is a great time saver. For those things that are available locally having volunteers interested and willing to take a member of the crew to fetch the item in question also reduces the ordinary challenge of getting from the ship to the supplier and back. When it was time for PRIDE’s cook Kevin Moran to go shopping, having Savannah’s Liaisons willing and able assistance made the going and shopping for the ship for 10 days of food so much easier than it would have been were PRIDE visiting on her own and did not have local volunteers assisting.

Crowd control for a tall ship festival is a very important thing, particularly at the point of boarding and debarking the visiting tall ships. Vessel gangways are not the same as steps or entryways into and out of buildings. Vessel gangways are typically narrow and often involve temporary steps that are not arranged the same way for a building. The docks a tall ship might be tied to may also involve ramps and steps. Altogether there is a lot of climbing and descending as one goes from shore to ship and back. Hosting large numbers of interested public of all ages, from the toddler to the senior, interested to see the tall ships requires diligent organizing by persons dedicated to the safety of the visiting public, who typically are not familiar with the sometimes awkward process of getting aboard and then back ashore again from a vessel.

All this being understood, what makes the above less than the work it can really be is the personality of volunteer liaisons. In Savannah, Bill, Lisa, Ray and Stuart were significantly more than just persons assigned to assist PRIDE. They were very interested in PRIDE because of what she represented to them. They requested to be PRIDE’s Liaison Officers. That acute personal interest brought out of us crew of PRIDE a strong sense of common interest and this always brings about stories and tales, along with all humor.

Days are long aboard any tall ship. It starts with being woken up for breakfast. While the commute is short…no sooner have you eaten and attended to your person then it is straight to work. Work during a port festival starts with flags and cleaning up the ship, as well organizing for the significant numbers of visitors. Right there on the dock waiting as the crew come on deck for work were PRIDE’s Liaison Officers…ready to attend to any and all of our external needs. During the day they managed the visiting crowds. On average PRIDE was visited by 1,500 persons per day for three full days in a row spanning from 10 in the morning till 6 in the evening. Often PRIDE’s liaisons did not say goodbye for the day until well into the evening. The mutual team work between PRIDE’s crew and her Savannah Liaisons made friends of us all and left memories of a great time in Savannah.

Cheers and much thanks!
Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II

A First For Savannah

Pride II Passing Old Fort Jackson (Photo by Megan Dove)

Savannah has never before hosted a Tall Ships Challenge Festival. “Tall Ships Challenge” is annually organized by Tall Ships America, the United States national organization of sail training interests in America. Every year, on a different American coast and shore (East Coast, Great Lakes, West Coast), Tall Ships Challenge is a series of sail training races between hosting ports. In those hosting ports the ships agree to make themselves available for general public visitation and the ports agree to create “happenings” for the trainees.

It sounds sort of simple…but in fact it is very complicated. There are national and local security concerns. There are docking concerns trying to address how to moor the vessels safely where they are both close together and safely and easily accessible to the public. These issues represent government regulation and economic challenges. In Savannah’s case the city has been a major supporter and partner with private sectors in the support of making this Tall Ship Festival come together and be as much an entertainment and education success as possible.

Little “thank you” flourishes to recognize such dedication for a first time ever effort that involved a stunning number of different and sometimes competing interests are as important as it is for the organizers to make all the arrangements for such a complicated event.

Pride of Baltimore, Inc. was able to provide a uniquely special “thank you” to the City of Savannah. The presentation was a formal event inside the chambers of the Mayor and Council (some eight council members) and with representatives from different agencies of the city. Below you can read what my Partner Captain Jamie Trost wrote, and I very slightly edited for smoother flow, for the presentation. We have been repeatedly told by witnesses that Jamie’s and my presentation was extremely appreciated and a singular high point to the start of the festivities. I provide for your judgment what was presented…

“Madam Mayor, Council Members, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that we Captains for Pride of Baltimore II present your fair city with this authentic reproduction of a War of 1812 United States National Ensign in appreciation of the City of Savannah’s role as the inaugural Tall Ships Challenge Port for the War of 1812 Bicentennial. This “Star-Spangled Banner” has flown over Fort McHenry, in the very same spot where the proud flag inspired Francis Scott Key’s famous song, and also over Pride of Baltimore II, the goodwill ambassador for Maryland and the signature sailing reproduction of Baltimore’s famous 1812 Privateers. Ships may come and go with the tides, and our stay in Savannah will be all too short. But let this flag remain to mark the magnificent occasion of a visit by the worlds Tall Ships and to serve as a reminder that, of all the ports commemorating this year’s Bicentennial of America’s struggle to assert her freedoms, Savannah was first.”


What do all of you think? Did we captains do a good job…or what? All kidding aside, on behalf of Pride, Inc. and we two partner captains, I would like to thank Fort McHenry’s Ranger Scott Sheads for his and his team’s efforts to provide us with the gift of a Star-Spangled Banner actual flown over Fort McHenry.

Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II
Acting Executive Director

Becalmed off Charleston, SC

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
70 nautical miles to go to entrance of the Savannah River.

What would they have done back before motors? Sat out the lack of wind…that is what!  Maybe dropped the anchor if it was shallow enough. But that would represent a lot of work…so maybe they would do what we are doing, merely drifting and do maintenance while waiting for the weather to change.

In our case, with access to cellular radio waves, I am able to check out weather reports and forecasts on the internet. Having done so I am able to see that it is unlikely that the wind conditions we are experiencing will change significantly enough for PRIDE to sail the rest of the distance to Savannah and arrive as scheduled early Thursday (tomorrow) morning. Hence, sometime later today we will take the sails in and start the engines and mosey slowly over to our appointment in Savannah set for early tomorrow morning.

The weather along the Southeast Coast of the United States has been light and the sea slight. Up until breakfast time this morning we had enough wind to sail between 3-4 knots against the light southerly winds of the last 24 hours. In that time PRIDE sailed from Frying Pan Shoal near Wilmington, NC to the vicinity of Charleston, SC.

The little bit of usable wind died out at breakfast and since we have been drifting with sails up but strapped in tight to reduce chaff. The on-watch crew have been getting deeper into cosmetic maintenance. Maybe at the mid-day watch change there will be swimming call. Kind of depends if there will be any wind at all. If none…yes. But if wind comes around…probably not.

Jan C. Miles, Captain Aboard Pride of Baltimore II