I've a Feeling We're Not in "Kansas" Anymore

June 4, 2012

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II is currently in Hampton, VA.

The ship arrived Friday to take part in some outport festivities for Opsail Virginia 2012.  PRIDE was spending the weekend in Hampton, VA, participating in the annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival. Friday was her first night in port; nicely secured in a very small harbor. There would be no wave action to worry about. With PRIDE’s mast and rigging standing proud there is always the need to monitor wind because any wind of any strength can cause mischief with either PRIDE being shoved against or away from the dock and experiencing damage, or possibly damaging the dock…or both. So, it is the responsibility for all aboard to always keep a weather eye for the wind, even while PRIDE is ostensibly safe in harbor.

Tornado approaching.

That responsibility was in full force Friday evening and is some of the reason we realized a tornado was approaching PRIDE well enough in advance to take some remedial action. Even with such warning it was a scramble. All hands turned-to getting deck tour guests off (there were few to none aboard because of recent monsoonal rain) and collapsing the awnings. We also took time to get flags down and potentially loose deck gear below. I monitored the approaching tornado as a means of assessing how much time the crew had before they needed to be in shelter provided by being below deck.

For those of you that are “YouTube” savvy, you may already have seen the Hampton, VA tornado of last Friday evening. If yes, you may also have seen the NWS (National Weather Service) video that shows the map of the track of that tornado. I can tell you the track depicted by NWS goes exactly over PRIDE at her dock in Hampton.

Our experience of the twister while we all were below is a blur. I recall upwards of a minute of significant angle of heel…10 degrees…maybe up to as much as 15 degrees…while I watched through the aft cabin skylight the wind blow over the ship bringing rain and glimpses of debris. Overall the twister experience was less than 5 minutes. Immediately after we all were on deck assessing PRIDE’s situation.

The City of Hampton mapped the path of the tornado, based on damages. Red areas indicate clusters of damage. (Map by Robin McCormick, Communications Strategist, City of Hampton)

There was damage. An anchored sailing yacht of 40 feet was dismasted and tangled up in PRIDE’s head-rig. Another sailing vessel was alongside. The two guns on the port side were up-ended and rolled over. The dock had loose boards. PRIDE has been shifted forward some three feet despite her doubled dock-lines taken up snug. as a result there were marks and gouges in PRIDE’s railing and rigging channel for the foremast rigging. The one tangled/dismasted sailing yacht was freed of PRIDE’s head rig quickly. The sailing vessel alongside moved away immediately. PRIDE was re-centered on the dock and her fenders re-rigged. PRIDE’s rubber boat was tossed about and her gear was afloat in the harbor…crew get in the small boat and retrieved all gear. Meanwhile another tornado warning went out…so there was hesitancy committing to much re-organizing or assessing of damage. Eventually it was truly dark. Eventually the 2nd tornado warning was lifted although a tornado “watch” would remain in affect till 2 AM.So, it was all hands remain aboard…but all were dismissed to stand down after all the obvious loose bits and disorganization was addressed.

The crew readied the ship and welcomed visitors aboard Saturday afternoon for the Blackbeard Festival

There was a delay to the Blackbeard Pirate Festival start Saturday till 2 PM from what would normally have been a 10 AM start. PRIDE’s crew spent from first thing Saturday till 2 PM getting ready for public deck tours. Then half the crew were given time off. Sunday the crew started with all hands till mid-day when the other watch got their time off. Meanwhile carpentry repairs got started Sunday morning at 7:30 and continued till 7:30 pm. The carpenter, Eric Lohsey came back today at 7 AM to pick up where he left off yesterday. At the rate things are going, all actual repairs should be completed today…save for painting.

What would have happened with high winds and seas while PRIDE was sailing? Probably what has happened for the last 24 years that PRIDE has been sailing. Come back home in good shape because the crew are aboard with only one mission, take care of the ship so she can take care of you. Whereas in port the crew could at anyone time be off of the ship or not monitoring weather 24 hours a day. Had our working day the night of the twister been a normal working day, most of the crew would have been ashore. Those aboard would not necessarily been able to be aware there was imminent tornado threat till it struck. In such a situation there would no doubt have been more collateral damage. The awnings for one. So where is PRIDE safer? At sea or in port? Kind of depends…doesn’t it?

Cheers,
Jan C. Miles, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II


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