The cold front weather that forecasters had been predicting blew through just at the wrong time yesterday for the crew of the Pride of Baltimore II.
The gusty wind shifts pushed Maryland's seagoing ambassador within a halyard's breadth of slamming into the concrete bulkhead in front of the Lehigh Cement plant in Canton during a lunch-time sail to preview the ship's 1992 itinerary.
As the wall loomed dangerously close to the ship's starboard side, Capt. Jan Miles spun the wheel to port. Earlier he had passed word for the crew to ease one of the forward sails. Now, he shouted the command. Crew members ran for the lines. One DTC moved to the rail with a huge, rubber fender, ready to jam it between the hull and the wall.
At what seemed to be the last minute, Captain Miles switched on the engine to give the ship just enough power to pull away, leaving the fresh coat of paint unscathed.
For the next hour or so, the ship tacked back and forth across the channel into a stiffening breeze to get back to the Finger Piers at the Inner Harbor.
"The crew's rusty," the skipper said later. "This is only the third time we've been out."
More than half the 11 crew members are Pride veterans who were working out the kinks after as long as 18 months away from the boat.
"This is so much more satisfying than my other job," said Mark Roesner, the first mate who has been working on a research vessel in New Jersey since he left the Pride late in 1990 at Malaga, Spain.
"It's the payoff," cheered Doug Leasure, who helped sail the ship back from Europe last fall, then stayed on board all winter as part of the maintenance crew.
He and the other veterans were busy helping the new members learn the scores of sheets and halyards, blocks and tackles in the Pride's complicated rigging.
"I'm used to a boom, mainsail and a jenny," mused Peggy Flanigan, whoraced fiberglass yachts for years on Chesapeake Bay and just joined Pride's crew in March. "But I'm starting to get a handle on what's going on here."
Ms. Flanigan will have until mid-May to learn the ropes before the Pride leaves for Puerto Rico on a seven-month tour during which it will visit ports along the East Coast and in the Chesapeake Bay.
Until then, the Pride's directors plan to use the ship as its own fund-raising tool, staging lunch and dinner cruises from the Inner Harbor.
Pride II is to lead the parade of tall ships into New York harbor on the Fourth of July. The original Pride of Baltimore was to have sailed in that position on July 4, 1986, but it sank six weeks earlier in a storm with the loss of four crew members.
This year's tour was arranged to keep the Pride more visible in Maryland ports. "For five months this year, we're going to be in Chesapeake Bay," said Linda Jordan, the Pride's executive director. "We were gone for nearly two years the last time, and we're happy to be back."