HAVRE DE GRACE — The Pride of Baltimore II is spending the weekend docked at Tydings Park and the crew is amazed at the steady stream of visitors in spite of the unpredictable weather.
Jan Miles, captain of the schooner, said people came Friday to greet them, and returned Saturday even though rain fell on and off all day.
“They are so enthralled with looking at the boat and they get curious about the things in the rigging that are fuzzy,” he said. “They are called baggywrinkles. It saves the sails from the rigging.”
Having sailed around the world on The Pride of Baltimore, Miles has noticed that there are always the questions about the ship, but its history leans toward the host port.
“You get the natural questions, but then in Canada they’ll say, ‘We won the war,’” he said.
The original Pride of Baltimore was a private ship called into service during the War of 1812. Letters of Mark were issued to put these ships into service in what amounted to privateering.
“The US Navy was pretty small compared to the British Navy at the time,” said Mark Durbin with the Maryland Park Service.
Actually named “Chasseur,” a newspaper of that time nicknamed it The Pride of Baltimore and the name stuck.
Durbin stood next to Colin Flack, who was wearing the uniform of the Volunteers of the Chesapeake Independent Blues. During the War of 1812 US men 16- to 60-years old were required to be in their local militia. While the primary job would be to protect their own community Durbin said these hometown platoons could be dispatched elsewhere.
“They were very similar to the National Guard,” he said of these boys and men.
They would be issued uniforms, guns and ammunition and would train and drill together.
“Because it was the local community you could be serving next to your son or uncle, all your neighbors, family and friends,” Durbin said.
“When Baltimore was attacked in 1814 these regiments were told to report to Baltimore,” Durbin said. “Maryland basically had to be self-sufficient because the federal government sent most of the troops north.”
While more rain was forecast for Sunday afternoon, it didn’t stop David Piccone, who brought his family to the dock to see the replica of the Pride of Baltimore. In fact the Havre de Grace family was there Friday night to see the ship arrive.
“We saw it come in with the sails up,” Piccone said. “My two boys are 4 and 6. They loved the cannon firing. They jumped a little. I think I did too.”
Sydney Ringsaker, a self confessed lover of math and history, shared what she knew about Havre de Grace’s contribution to the War of 1812 including the role of John O’Neill. As the British troops advanced closer, the 12-year-old said residents of the waterfront town were getting worried.
“They called John O’Neill and he used the Potato Battery,” Ringsaker said.
The Potato Battery cannons were along the waterfront at Concord Point Lighthouse. She also knew the story of O’Neill’s kidnapping and how his daughter secured his release.
The original Pride of Baltimore, a Baltimore Clipper, sunk in a storm in 1986. Her captain and three crew members died.
Pride of Baltimore II was built with a combination of private and public money. The $2.5 million collected covered the cost of the new ship and set up an endowment. Pride II was launched in April 1988 and commissioned later that year. While it looks true to the Baltimore Clipper style that was the original Pride, Pride II is modern inside and safer in a storm.
That doesn’t make it any easier to sail, however.
“It’s a powerful rig,” Miles said.
The trick, he said, is knowing the balance.
“You have to know ... or you’re going to create an out of balance situation.”
Studying the masts and all that rigging, Piccone admired the replica of the ancient vessel.
“These old wooden sailboats, all the lines. I love it,” Piccone said.