Pride of Baltimore II leaves city for four-month, 8,000-mile voyage

The Baltimore Sun
The Pride of Baltimore II departed the Chesapeake Bay for the first time since 2013 on an 8,000-mile journey.

In a moment of serenity aboard the historic Pride of Baltimore II on Tuesday morning, David Banks absorbed a picturesque view of Baltimore from the Chesapeake Bay.

"Sometimes you get too busy and you forget what's going on around you," the Old Town man said. "You can feel the pulse of the world around you."

A few moments later, Captain Jan Miles had Banks and the rest of the crew scurrying to push, pull, shove and tie the lines and sheets needed to keep the topsail schooner on track.

The Pride of Baltimore II, the city's "Star-Spangled Ambassador," left the Inner Harbor on Tuesday for a four-month, 8,000-mile journey that will take it along the East Coast to the Great Lakes, with the goal of drawing attention — and, organizers hope, visitors — to the city and state.

Pride of Baltimore Inc., the nonprofit that owns the ship, signed a three-year, $1.5 million partnership with the state in January to represent the economic interests of Baltimore and the state. During the voyage, organizers plan to stop in Toronto, Chicago, Green Bay, Wis., and other cities, where the ship will host meetings and sailing opportunities.

"What's unique about Pride is it has this power of attraction," said Rick Scott, executive director of Pride of Baltimore Inc. "It's stunning, it's beautiful, it's unique in the world. It can attract people at a very high level to come to a meeting, to come to a reception."

Quantifying the ship's impact on the regional economy is difficult, Scott said. He described it as a catalyst for business conversations involving Maryland.

For example, he said, Pride II will host the CEO of a Baltimore corporation for a meeting with clients in Chicago.

Scott said he hopes the ship's journey can help lift Baltimore out of the shadow cast by the Freddie Gray unrest last year.

"While Pride can't solve some of these underlying socioeconomic issues, what we can do is what we've done successfully for almost 40 years," Scott said. "And that is to spread positive messages in Baltimore and Maryland and at ports throughout the world."

Laura Stevenson, executive director of Sail Baltimore, said she hopes the planned involvement of Pride II in tall-ship competitions in the Great Lakes will attract more tall ships to the Inner Harbor.

The voyage that began Tuesday will be the first time the ship has left the bay since 2013. Banks was one of three volunteer crew members who paid for a three-day crew experience as the ship travels 180 miles to its first destination: Norfolk, Va.

"We call them guest crew for a reason rather than passengers," co-captain Jordan Smith said. "It's not sitting on the deck with a parasol and umbrella."

As cannons on the ship blasted farewell to the city near Fort McHenry, Miles hollered orders and the crew scrambled.

While the volunteers' backgrounds differed — Niall O'Malley has international sailing experience, while Jim Treece favors reading about sea adventures — all three carried an irrepressible enthusiasm for sailing.

"There's elegance to drawing your power from the wind," O'Malley said. "[Pride II is] complex in terms of mechanics but it's simplistic in overall terms. There's a beautiful elegance to that."

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