The twin raked masts and white sails of the Pride of Baltimore II won't be visible in the Chesapeake Bay this summer for the first time in the ship’s 30-year history, after the nonprofit that operates it was unable to raise enough money to sail.
Since 1988, the distinctive ship — a recreation of the 19th-century clippers that sailed from Baltimore during the War of 1812 — has sailed around the nation and the world as an ambassador for Baltimore and Maryland.
Rick Scott, director of the nonprofit Pride of Baltimore Inc., said it was difficult for his team to make the decision not to sail. The ship’s captain and several office staff have been laid off, and the nonprofit has not hired the ship’s normal crew of 11 for the season.
“This year has been challenging, stressful, sad,” Scott said. “And at the same time, if I step back and look at the bigger arc of the Pride story, it looks very positive to me.”
That’s because the Pride of Baltimore was able to secure new funding from the state, which will pitch in $500,000 to help run the ship for the next five years.
Del. Maggie McIntosh, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, led the effort to secure that money. The Baltimore Democrat said the ship symbolizes Baltimore’s connection to the water and shares the story of the city’s history wherever it goes.
“It is the Pride of Baltimore, and we have been proud to have it sail to many ports and be our ambassador and to bring part of Baltimore’s history to other parts of the world,” McIntosh said.
McIntosh said she’s confident the new money will secure the ship’s future, but for now, “it’s sad to see it wrapped up, isn’t it?”
Normally at this time of year, Scott said, the Pride of Baltimore would be in the Chesapeake Bay offering educational programs and deck tours. It would spend the summer farther afield, and return to the bay in the fall.
But the first chunk of the state money won’t be available until the budget year that begins in July, and for this year the Pride was still about $200,000 short. So instead of plying the bay and the seas beyond, the 109-foot ship will remain under wraps at a dock in Canton.
As the state money becomes available, Scott said, he will begin reassembling his team and planning for 2019 and beyond.
“We are really looking forward to using this time for strategic planning,” Scott said.
Scott said tall ships around the country are struggling to make ends meet. The Pride of Baltimore has relied on charitable giving, appearance fees for festivals, corporate events and tourist dollars to cover its $1.2 million annual budget. But Scott said funding had been shaky since the financial crisis of 2008. That’s when the nonprofit began spending down its endowment to fund the budget, and that money was almost all gone by 2016.
“It’s very difficult for a traditionally built tall ship to support itself,” Scott said.
If a donor stepped forward with more money, Scott said, it’s possible that the ship could sail this fall. But he said that seems unlikely.
“I’m always looking up to see if there is any money falling out of the sky,” he said.
Jan Miles, the captain, has been with the Pride of Baltimore since the beginning. Miles is frustrated that he won’t be sailing it this summer, but has volunteered to keep an eye on it and muster volunteers to keep it maintained.
Being out in the sun and the rain without a crew on board will take a toll on the ship, Miles said, so it’s important to give it regular care.
“There’s no one else that knows the boat better than I do,” he said. “There’s that nuance that is less immediate for new people than it is for me.”
The first Pride of Baltimore sank in 1986 in a storm near Puerto Rico; its captain and three crew members were killed. Miles said the public called for it to be replaced. In the three decades since then, the new ship has logged more than 250,000 miles visiting more than 200 ports in 40 countries.
Miles said the ship was well built and has been well maintained, so it could be seaworthy for another thirty years. That’s one of the reasons why he says he’s determined to stick with it.
“I see a future and I can hang on for a while for that future,” he said.