40 apprentice sailors receive rousing welcome at voyage's end


WASHINGTON -- They did not sail into a glittering sunset.

It was blustery, chilly and wet as the four-day voyage from Baltimore's Inner Harbor by way of the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland ended Thursday evening at a marina in Southwest Washington.

Forty teen-age apprentice sailors, half from inner-city Baltimore and half from inner-city Washington, got a glittering welcome all the same.

They were met by balloons, flags, music, refreshments, presentations of awards and gifts, cheering parents, friends and sponsors, and a parade of government officials at the microphone, led by Mayors Kurt L. Schmoke of Baltimore and Sharon Pratt Kelly of Washington.

The mayors said the event marked a historic partnership by their two cities. Each praised the summer job-training program of Baltimore's Living Classrooms Foundation, including its sailing experience for young landlubbers.

But it fell to Willie Fedd, a 17-year-old resident of an East Baltimore housing project, to provide the eloquent high point of the oratory.

"Mayor Kelly, Mayor Schmoke -- thank you for believing in us," the Southern High 11th-grader said simply. Then, speaking for his 39 fellow crew members who had just helped dock the Lady Maryland and the Mildred Belle, he told the mayors, "We hope you are proud of us."

Mayor Schmoke gave him a big smile and a handshake; Mayor Kelly gave him a hug.

James Piper Bond, executive director of the Living Classrooms Foundation, which until recently was known as the Lady Maryland Foundation, presided at Thursday night's festivities under umbrellas and canopies at the Gangplank Marina on Washington's Water Street.

"It is successes like this that people need to read about," Mr. Bond told the crowd, referring to "all the tragic news from our inner cities."

His remark won a burst of applause from parents of the new graduates of the six-week summer program, described as "at-risk youth from diverse backgrounds."

None of the parents who watched the arrival of the foundation's 104-foot sailing vessel, the Lady Maryland, and its 60-foot Chesapeake Bay work boat, the Mildred Belle, was more excited than Margaret Jones Phifer of Washington. When she finally spied her 15-year-old son, Demetri, aboard the Mildred Belle, she exclaimed: "He's my baby. I just want to hug him."

Mayor Schmoke said the just-concluded program "cemented good relations among young people and showed that our governments can work together."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad