Captain’s Log – Looking Back 30 Years

December 14, 2017

Position: Pride II‘s Winter Berth, Canton, Baltimore
Date: Thursday, December 14

The final touches of the ship’s winter cover are being attended to. Soon the ship will be empty of the liveaboard crew and winterized. It is always good for a heavy timber, traditionally built vessel to be emptied, cleaned, and opened for ventilating whenever feasible. Ahead lie the requirements of attending to the normal wear and tear accumulated from sailing through the 2017 season, as well as attending to the normal needs of a nearly 30-year old vessel ahead of her next sailing season.

I find myself reflecting on the status of Pride of Baltimore II this time 30 years ago. Hull construction was well on its way to being completed in time for a very public celebration: her christening and launch on April 30, 1988. Then-Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley would do the honor of breaking a bottle of champagne on her bow as the new vessel’s name was announced aloud.

Her launch, simply putting the boat in the water, would be followed by a summer of completing “down-below” details, as well as fitting of masts and spars with associated rigging and sails; plus, shakedown sails and sea trials, all to be completed in time for her formal commissioning set for October 23, 1988, at Brown’s Wharf in Fells Point, just blocks from where Chasseur was built at Thomas Kemp’s shipyard in 1812.

What is a ship commissioning? By definition, it is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service. After testing of all functional aspects of the ship by the builders, in partnership with the vessel’s inaugural crew and officers, the ship commissioning ceremony charges the vessel and her crew with the intended mission. For Pride of Baltimore II, the commission was to go forth and call upon national and international ports with a message of compliment and invitation to commemorate and celebrate friendship with the people of Maryland, from Baltimore City and beyond.

As I was to be the captain for the first voyage, I had the honor of accepting the commission on behalf of Pride of Baltimore II and her crew. My mind was focused on keeping to the schedule, reciting the correct words, not tripping and falling as I made my way from podium to ship, and being clear with my orders to the officers and crew about sail setting so as to show the ship off to the admiring crowds visible along the waterfront of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, stretching from Canton, through Fells Point, deep into the Inner Harbor, then past Federal Hill and on out past Fort McHenry. I think photos of the departure show that the effort of showing our new Baltimore Clipper under sail to her adoring public inside their world-renowned Inner Harbor was successful.

With this remove of nearly 30 years, I can see we have kept to the tradition of exemplary tradecraft set by her designer and builders. Pride of Baltimore II is just as seaworthy and astonishingly beautiful today as she was for her commissioning nearly 30 years ago. Pride of Baltimore, Inc., the nonprofit that has been caring for our world-famous Baltimore Clipper, continues to commit to prudent care and preservation for safe and dependable voyaging of the most widely recognized and admired American sailing vessel in the world. She is an example of an early American sailing vessel design unique to the Chesapeake Bay that, so admired by the world, was copied when they saw how Baltimore Clippers outsailed the British Navy during the American War of 1812;  during which Baltimore became the home of our nation’s national anthem, the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Maritime prowess helped introduce the world to the young, bold, and entrepreneurial United States.

Today, Pride of Baltimore II continues to represent the entrepreneurial spirit that still thrives in Baltimore and Maryland. There is every reason for Marylanders to share in the pride we feel in our beautiful sailing representative and in the accolades and admiration she receives in every port she visits, both at home and abroad.

Captain Jan C. Miles

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