What can a landlubber say about riding with a seasoned crew of the Pride of Baltimore II? My head still swims with the nautical terminology that I couldn't quite grasp.
I boarded in Solomons for the two-day trip up Chesapeake Bay to the Pride's home port. It was intimidating, as I gingerly went below deck for the first time, wondering how many people busted their behinds after slipping on the almost-vertical stairs. Fortunately, I have not one mishap to report.
Not that such thoughts didn't cross my mind. I had learned about the Pride II's loss of its rigging in a sudden storm while sailing off the coast of St. Nazaire, France in early September.
The original Pride of Baltimore sank off the Puerto Rican coast in a freak squall, killing four crew members, 20 years ago this month. That provoked an outpouring of support from local residents and people around the world. It was decided to build Pride of Baltimore II, which launched in 1988.
The first Pride was built in public view at a pre-Harborplace Inner Harbor. I remember traveling with my family to gaze at its unfinished hull, which made me think of a beached whale's skeleton. It was launched in 1977.
I will never forget the day in 1986 when I arrived at work at The Sun, looking at the the photos that captured the emotions shared by Mayor William Donald Schaefer, press secretary Chris Hartman, and an entire city and state, saddened and in shock over the loss of the crew and their ship.
But now, 20 years later, the Pride II fires its guns towards Fells Point to celebrate its safe return to the birthplace of the Baltimore Clipper. One of those, named Chasseur, performed so heroically on the high seas during the War of 1812 that it was called "the pride of Baltimore."
The sight of Pride II cutting through the open water conjures fantasies of how life might have been in the 1800s. But once below deck, you would discover that Pride II is equipped with satellite, Internet access and modern bulkheads - just what is needed to awaken a visiting photographer from deams of horse-drawn carts, gas lights and one-lane country roads as the eastern and western shores of the bay move past on the horizon so he can find a cellular signal to send photos and videos over the broadband card of a laptop.
For more information about the Pride of Baltimore and Pride of Baltimore II and the origin of the Baltimore Clipper: www.pride2.org/NewPrideSite/ Other/OtherHome.html. To find a video, podcast and photo gallery on this feature, go to baltimoresun.com/pride2.