As a teen-ager in 1977, Brett Hammond dreamed of sailing aboard the Pride of Baltimore. Yesterday he found himself 75 feet above the Chesapeake helping the crew of the schooner's successor, the Pride of Baltimore II, furl the topsail.
"I'm fascinated by what it was like to sail in the 1800s. When you step onto this boat it's like stepping back in time," said Mr. Hammond, who earned college credit while sailing from New York City to Baltimore on the state-owned Pride of Baltimore II.
Mr. Hammond and classmates James Cox, Frank Finney, Steven Hart and William Klarner are advanced navigation students from Essex Community College who spent the last four days aboard Maryland's floating goodwill ambassador.
In addition to applying navigational theory learned in the classroom, the students worked alongside the crew of the 157-foot vessel.
"They stood sea-watch in the middle of the night, they did boat checks, they helped hoist and furl the sails," said Dr. Robert Resau, the course instructor.
As the Pride docked in the Baltimore harbor at the finger piers between the Maryland Science Center and Harborplace, Dr. Resau spoke highly of his students. "I'm proud of them. They've done well in difficult situations," he said.
Applied Navigation has been offered only four times since it began in 1993 at Essex. Two more classes will be run this year, possibly in August and October.
Scheduling is difficult because the class must join the Pride wher
ever it happens to be sailing. The Pride's current Chesapeake Bay tour keeps it primarily in Maryland, and Essex Community College navigational instructors hope to take advantage of that proximity.
The students from Essex paid $450 each for the class -- but this was no pleasure cruise.
Each morning, fortified by a breakfast prepared by the ship's cook, Stacie Kohler, the students took up the backbreaking work of sailing the schooner.
"The Pride crew uses traditional methods and materials of sailing," Dr. Resau said. "It is labor-intensive sailing. For instance, just to raise the anchor takes the help of most of the crew and lasts 15 minutes. But that kind of work builds tremendous camaraderie."
Working alongside the experienced 12-member crew, the students learned much about sailing a replica Baltimore clipper and they became part of the almost musical rhythm of the heavy work. Sailors and students traded sea stories below deck at meals and between duties.
The first two days of the trip were spent fighting seasickness while maneuvering through the rough waters of the Atlantic on the trip south.
On Friday the ship entered the Chesapeake. The students huddled around nautical charts, getting a fix on their position and listening with rapt attention to informal lectures from Capt. Jan Miles.
"This experience hasn't just made my day, this trip makes my life," said James Cox, a retired eye pathology technician. "I was standing by the rail Wednesday and some of the waves were eye level, around 15 feet! . . . This is a once in a lifetime experience for us."
Captain Miles would like to see more groups take advantage of the Pride's presence in Maryland during its Chesapeake Bay tour. He said the ship could offer a good opportunity for maritime historians looking for a taste of life at sea, or even corporate executives trying to build teamwork.
"There's a lesson in teamwork and leadership in this voyage," said Steven Hart, a student who took time off from his job as a supervisor at Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. to make the journey. "This boat has a mission like any company does, and just like in business there are storms out there on the horizon, weather changes that take the crew by surprise, and they must use judgment and common sense and teamwork to survive the storm."
As the students roamed the deck yesterday morning, looking slightly gloomy about leaving, Dr. Resau offered a wry grin as he summed up their feelings: "Here we are leaving when we feel as though we've just gotten started."