Captain’s Log – Setting the Ringtail

November 7, 2016

Date: November 4, 2016

I joined the ship in the middle of her trip to Chestertown for Sultana’s Downrigging weekend. Pride of Baltimore II has taken part in this festival many times, and it is one of our favorites. It is an end of the season celebration put on by the schooner Sultana, whose home port is Chestertown, a small, charming Eastern Shore town situated well up the beautiful, winding Chester River, which empties into the bay across from and slightly south of Baltimore. Several other tall ships attended, representing a broad swath of our maritime history. The majority were modern reconstructions of historic types:

  • Kalmar Nyckel (17th century replica of the vessel that brought the first settlers to Delaware)
  • Sultana (18th century representation of a topsail schooner of the same name that frequented these waters)
  • Pride of Baltimore II (early 19th century, representation of a Baltimore Clipper topsail schooner)
  • Lady Maryland (19th century Chesapeake Bay pungy schooner)

There were also a couple of originals, redoubtable vessels that have stood the test of time:

  • Sigsbee (1901- Chesapeake Bay skipjack, used for oyster dredging)
  • A.J. Meerwald (1928- Delaware Bay oyster schooner)

In addition, there were a great many classic small craft, including Chesapeake Bay workboats, lapstrake rowing skiffs, classic sailboats, and a kid motoring around in a miniature PT-109 shooting a cap gun. Music and good food were in abundance.

Drew McMullen, the director of Sultana Projects, was very welcoming and helpful, and put on a great event. Chestertown will see Pride again in future years.

Especially because leaving was so much fun! Every once in a while, the conditions align just so; Monday was one of those days. There was a brisk north wind and an outgoing tide, which allowed us to sail off the dock simply by taking in the docklines and setting the topsail. We added more sail as we made our way down the river. After beating to windward for a bit in the mouth of the Chester to weather Love Point, we bore away towards our destination for the day: Annapolis. Since this was a dead downwind run, and since we hadn’t done so in a while (and I never had) we set the ringtail, a sort of extension to the mainsail used for running downwind. It’s a bit fiddly and complicated, and it’s usable only in a narrow range of conditions, but it’s fun to do once in a while. We sailed all the way into the Annapolis roadstead and anchored off the Naval Academy seawall. It was a full day and a complete transit without using the engines.

The next day, at midday, we made our way to the National Sailing Hall of Fame dock, which is one of the berths we use at the Annapolis City Dock. That afternoon, we did a charter arranged by Mike Furbish, a past Pride crewmember.

The next day we motored back to Baltimore in calm winds, and it has been business as usual in our home port for the remainder of the week, except for today. Today, we are taking part in the memorial services for Helen Delich Bentley, a longtime board member and benefactor of Pride of Baltimore, and a person who was a driving force in the revitalization of the port of Baltimore. Pride wears black ribbons over her ensign and state flag today, as we circle the harbor with friends, family, and colleagues of Mrs. Bentley’s, showing them what a lifetime of tenacious advocacy for maritime issues can accomplish.

Signed,

Captain Jordan Smith


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