ST. MARY'S CITY -- After visiting more than 40 cities in 19 countries over nearly 20 months, the Pride of Baltimore II returned to Maryland waters yesterday, and its crew members expressed thanks for arriving safely.
"It's a great country. It's a beautiful day to arrive. This is the most perfect Thanksgiving imaginable," said first mate Dan Parrott, 29, at the start of an overnight stop here.
Mr. Parrott and the rest of the 12-member crew celebrated the return of Maryland's goodwill ship by popping open champagne bottles and soaking up the sun.
Oh, there also was a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal, complete with turkey, sweet potatoes and cherry pie cooked by the ship's 21-year-old chef, Mary Ellen Kenny.
The Pride II set sail from Baltimore on April 7, 1990, arriving 17 days later in Baltimore, Ireland. Stops included Poland, Germany, Turkey and the Soviet Union. It started home from Cadiz, Spain, on Oct. 20.
Visiting the Soviet Union over the Fourth of July was the most memorable stop for many of the crew.
The crew met people who were hospitable, curious and "concerned that we were being treated well," Capt. Jan Miles said.
The mission of the elegant, small sailing ship is to extend friendship, make Baltimore more recognizable around the world and drum up business. The Pride II is succeeding in making Baltimore better-known, Captain Miles said.
People who were familiar with the Pride of Baltimore -- lost at sea in May 1986 -- were delighted to see Pride II, he added.
"A lot of people said, 'Wow! You got another boat!' " he said.
The Pride of Baltimore II was built in 1988 to resemble a 19th century Baltimore clipper. The captain described the ship as a traveling classroom. "We are literally a show-and-tell platform. We are there to show Maryland and Baltimore," he said.
Captain Miles does not know how successful the trip was in drumming up new business. "Commercially, everyone's kind of stressed," he said. "How much productivity has been achieved is arguable."
Yet, deckhand Gary Siebert, 60, a retired financial officer who helped build Pride II, said the boat provides valuable publicity for Maryland -- "something money can't buy."
Funding for the Pride is provided by the state, city, donations from private corporations and fund-raising events.
Pride II is to arrive in Annapolis at noon tomorrow on her way to Baltimore. At 1 p.m. Sunday, the ship is scheduled to be at Fort McHenry, where a National Guard battery is to give a cannon salute. The ship is scheduled to arrive at the Inner Harbor at about 1:25 p.m. Sunday.
Then, the crew will return to their homes and families. Mr. Siebert, for one, is looking forward to resting. "I'm going to sleep for two weeks," he said. "And I'm looking forward to a big juicy steak."