Saturday 28 August 2010
Pride of Baltimore II
Alongside Soutwest Wall of Navy Pier
Chicago, and Navy Pier, specifically, have given us throngs of people – over 10,000 in three days with the gates yet to open this Saturday morning. Navy Pier has become a village of sailors, maritime music, Great Lakes conservation and everything else that can be associated with a gathering of sailing vessels. Since Navy Pier was designed as a tourist attraction, all the activity cannot help but resemble a carnival. Whether that is inspiring or troubling is all a point of perception.
For sailors aboard Pride of Baltimore II, past the half way mark of a longish season and in the last official American Sail Training Association Festival, three to four thousand people crossing the rail in a day has the potential of being a real drag. The questions get repetitive – do you actually sail the boat? are you on your summer vacation? what are those fuzzy things on the ropes? – as do the answers – yes, we sail as much as we can; no, we are all 12 of us professional sailors; they are called baggywrinkle, and help prevent chafe between the rigging and the sails.
But the sheer spectacle of an event this size, with 18 ships and more shore-side activities for both the visitors and the crew, ought to be inspiring. For that to happen, the sailor has to take a step back, to use a minute of precious off time to take in the scope of what is going on out side the rails of their own ship. Just as the foot soldier never gets to observe the grandeur of a marshal parade, the sailor rarely gets to see the scale of a Tall Ships Festival because they are up to their nose in the festival itself.
It is easy to stay buried in the crowds and questions until the watch turnover comes around, then flee the scene to someplace ashore where they don’t know you are sailor, won’t ask anything about what you or your ship does. But that is robbing yourself of the simple satisfaction gained by seeing your part in the event combined with all the others to make it whole. At some point soon, the Chicago Festival, and the entire 2010 Great Lakes Tour will be just memories and photographs, so taking a moment to see things live and in person is worthwhile. But then it is back to work – when you are part of an event like this, you can’t stop to admire it for very long, or it all falls apart.
The crew of Pride II get this. They are professionals, underway, at the dock and with the public. Situated in the Southernmost corner of the festival, we are usually one of the first boats the public boards. The Schooners Unicorn and Denis Sullivan share this location with us and usually get the first visitors. From there the rest of the festival is gathered at the end of the pier – all the big square-riggers and nearly everything else afloat. With this arrangement, the crowds typically come see Pride II and her neighbors on the Southwest wall, then trek out to see the rest of the festival on the North side of the pier. Returning, they have to pass by our location again. And as a compliment of compliments, more than a dozen have waited in line to see Pride II again, and made a point of telling the crew how professional they think the ship is.
For a crew that strives for professionalism, there may be no higher compliment than the simple acknowledgement of a job well done.
Jamie Trost and the top-notch crew of Pride II