Pride II launches spring with a splash


The Pride of Baltimore II, the floating goodwill ambassador of Maryland, has spent most of the past two weeks bone-dry, standing awkwardly on its keel in dry-dock.

But today, the Pride II will get wet again, as the ship takes a short cruise to the warehouse that holds its masts and rigging.

"When the boat goes in the water it's a sign that spring is coming and that things are going great," said Michael C. McGeady, deputy director of the nonprofit organization that TC handles the boat's operations.

As part of a 10-week overhaul estimated to cost $25,000, the Pride II has been receiving final repairs at General Ship Repair off Key Highway. Mounted in the dry-dock, which looks like an enormous, floating concrete tub, the ship is secured at its base by a huge vise and supported by ropes and wooden blocks.

This morning, the concrete tub is scheduled to sink low enough for the Pride II to float free and shuttle over to the HarborView warehouse. There, the vessel's tentlike winter cover will be removed to make way for the enormous masts and rigging that give the replica clipper its height, speed and vintage look.

The ship will be returned to full sailing capability by April 1, when its 1995 Chesapeake Bay Tour begins.

"After the Pride floats free of dry-dock we will check it to see that there's no leaking and that the engines are running properly," said Captain Jan Miles, one of two captains who rotate duty on the ship. "Both Bob Glover [the other captain] and I are excited about getting it back into the water. After [today], the next two weeks will be spent putting the boat back together."

Sailor Barbrina Beck, who has been working on pieces of the Pride II throughout the winter, said dismantling the ship was easy, but "the hard part is putting it all back together again."

Since January, pieces of the vessel, including tops of masts, spurs and rigging, have received routine maintenance in the warehouse. As more than 100 newly sanded and varnished "blocks" -- wooden pulleys that help raise the sails -- hung drying on a line like laundry, the galley floor was sanded and varnished. Meanwhile, "sunburned" sections of the sails were sent to Maine, where the worn material would be replaced with new panels.

In addition to such routine maintenance, portions of the ship's hull were recaulked. Unsightly stripes marked areas where a dense fiber called oakum was used; it was sealed with putty and orange paint before the ship was dry-docked and painted its signature green, yellow and black.

With most of the maintenance completed, members of the Pride II's crew are looking forward to the 1995 tour.

"The beginning of the season is always fun. . . . The ship is Maryland's goodwill ambassador, so it's always a mark of things to come," said Mr. McGeady of the Pride of Baltimore Inc.

The Pride of Baltimore II returned to the Chesapeake Bay in December, after completing a 21-month Tour of the Americas.

The vessel, which was launched in April 1988, is named for a Baltimore clipper that disrupted British shipping during the War of 1812. The first re-creation, the Pride of Baltimore, was built in 1977 and sank off the coast of Puerto Rico in 1986, claiming the lives of four crew members.

Once the Pride II is reassembled, it will be docked at the finger piers located between Harborplace and the Maryland Science Center. Sometime this month, before the 1995 tour, Captain Miles plans to take the ship on a shakedown cruise to get the crew trained and prepared.

The public will be able to board the Pride II during an open house April 2, 4 and 5; the tour will begin with a trip to Oxford April 11.

"The sailing we do on this boat is rewarding and challenging and is frequently better sailing than on any other boat we've sailed on," Captain Miles said. "But this is not our boat; this boat is the people's boat, and we have a lot of personal feelings of responsibility to make sure the Pride is a compliment to the people of Maryland."

The 1995 tour will keep the Pride II primarily in Maryland, except for a brief cruise to Virginia and a jaunt up the coast with stops in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine.

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