The Pride of Baltimore II is headed for the Great Lakes, where it will participate in the Tall Ships Challenge throughout the summer.
The ship, a topsail schooner modeled after a Baltimore clipper from the War of 1812, set sail Wednesday from the Inner Harbor’s Pier 1 with state delegates Maggie MacIntosh and Brooke Lierman, among other officials, in attendance.
The ship is scheduled to arrive in Toronto in about three weeks, and from there it will visit ports in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada. It will call in Buffalo, New York, for a Fourth of July celebration.
At each of the ports in the challenge, Pride will participate in city festivals, and it will offer a variety of sailings and charters, said Jeff Buchheit, the executive director of Pride of Baltimore Inc., the nonprofit that supports the ship.
Its crew also will compete in several tall ship races between ports for the challenge, which has been run since 2001, said challenge director Erin Short.
“They are incredibly popular in the Great Lakes. They’ve been numerous times,” Short said. “It’s a ship that people definitely remember.”
Captain Jan Miles, who’s been with Pride for nearly 40 years, and his crew, are standouts at the festivals they visit, Short said.
“It is an exciting time for Pride of Baltimore II," said Jayson Williams, chairman of Pride Inc.’s board of directors, in an email. "Pride was built to remind people that Baltimore is a water town, fun, full of promise and worth investment. Pride returns this year to tell that story to over 100,000 in the Great Lakes.”
Each year, the Tall Ships Challenge takes place in different coastal waters of the U.S., Short said. Last year, for example, it was on the Gulf Coast, and next year it will take place on the Atlantic Coast.
People can follow the fleet of tall ships from port to port during the challenge through a fleet tracker on the Tall Ships America website, she said.
This year marks Pride’s 31st at sea, Buchheit said. Last year, the ship didn’t sail due to funding shortcomings, he added, but thanks to partial funding from the state, the 190-foot schooner is back in action.
The ship was once operated by the City of Baltimore, but now that it’s run by the nonprofit, it relies primarily on donors and revenue from its sailings to stay afloat. The state money — $500,000 for the next five years — makes up less than half of the funding the ship needs, Buchheit said.
The first Pride of Baltimore sank during a 1986 voyage in the Atlantic. Sudden hurricane-force gusts turned the ship on its side, and it capsized about 240 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. Four of its crew members were killed, including its captain, Armin Elsaesser.
That ship, which was constructed by hand in the Inner Harbor, was commissioned in 1975 for the country’s bicentennial celebration. The second Pride of Baltimore was commissioned in 1988, and since then has traveled to more than 200 ports in 40 countries, according to its website.
The ship’s homecoming is scheduled for Sept. 21, Buchheit said, and it will be around to participate in the annual Light City festival in Baltimore this November.