Sailing where no Pride has gone before Journey: The Pride of Baltimore II will visit Asia as part of its longest trip.

December 05, 1997|By ERNEST F. IMHOFF | ERNEST F. IMHOFF,SUN STAFF

For second mate Amy Strange's first voyage on The Pride of Baltimore II, the exciting part will be setting foot in China.

Deckhand Jennifer Muther, on her third Pride trip, awaits those evenings when the boat cruises under a full moon and a heaven full of stars: "It's something completely magical."

Captain Jan Miles has a veteran sailor's "concerned eye" about the threat of Pacific typhoons on what will be the Pride's first voyage to Asia and its farthest in mileage.

He and his crew of 11 are preparing to leave the Inner Harbor at 4 p.m. tomorrow. As usual, the topsail schooner will be accompanied by fire, police and Coast Guard boats and sailboats. But there's a difference. The Pride won't turn back until leaving Japan in July and won't return home until the day after Thanksgiving next year.

"This is not our longest voyage in time but it is in distance," said Miles, 47, of the Washington Hill section of East Baltimore. The longest time away from home was a trip to Europe and the Mediterranean Sea from spring 1990 to fall 1991.

This trip has long legs of 4,500 to 5,000 miles. The Panama Canal to Hawaii. Hawaii to China. Japan to Seattle. Panama Canal to Baltimore. The distance is more than 26,000 miles.

The Pride's board of directors and staff worked with the Maryland Port Administration, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and other public agencies to plan the Asia voyage. Similar planning goes into other trips, such as to the Great Lakes this year.

Asia was considered an important destination because of business opportunities the state saw there. Working out details took much of this year. Mark Jay Belton, the Pride's executive director, visited Asian countries to help plan the trip.

The journey will require good seamanship, but Miles has confidence in his crew.

"Five are returnees, the rest new to the Pride, but they are all experienced sailors," he said. "We don't train people from scratch."

Strange, for example, has sailed for eight years on some rough Great Lakes on the square-rigger Niagara out of Erie, Pa., recently as the third officer. "If you meet the challenge of meeting heavy weather and do it well, there's no better feeling," she said. "Without winds, it's like a firefighter without a fire."

The China stops are especially attractive to some. "The linkage is interesting" between Canton here and Canton there, Miles said. The Baltimore seafaring community was named for the Chinese city because of the vigorous Baltimore clipper ship trade between the two in the last century. The Chinese city is now known as Guangzhou (pronounced GWAHNG-jo). Another stop is Xiamen (pronounced she-AH-men), which is Baltimore's sister city.

As is Pride practice, none of the 12 in the crew will make the entire voyage. Crew members will be replaced by other sailors on a staggered basis, but Miles and some of the crew will sail several legs.

Miles' fellow captain has yet to be chosen. Robert C. Glover III, the Pride's other veteran skipper, has resigned, effective early next year, to spend more time with his family. The captain's dual job is not the easiest to fill: The obvious half of it requires managing at sea, but the other half is helping to manage an office on land.

The crew members conduct free open houses and private receptions in all ports visited. "They do a terrific job representing the state in creating good will, and the beauty of the ship leaves a lasting visual impression on visitors," said Erin Lassen, the Pride's communications director.

The state-owned ship's $900,000 budget is supported by Maryland and Baltimore funds, its endowment's interest income, private contributions and membership fees.

The starting crew is composed of five women and seven men. They work four-hour watches, are off four hours and are on standby watches of four hours, when they may be called from a snooze. After the 12-hour cycle, another begins.

Half of the crew is typically age 20 to 27. Deckhands start at $400 a month, may work up to $500 or $550 and rarely get to On board for three legs will be Leslie Ann Bridgett, a Charles County science teacher, who will report to upper elementary school pupils via the Internet. Several guest crew members will also be aboard at $150 a night for room and board.

The Pride of Baltimore II considers itself a memorial to the captain and three crew members who were lost at sea with the original Pride in a squall May 14, 1986, about 240 miles north of Puerto Rico.

Eight survivors spent four days and seven hours in a life raft before being rescued. A service is held annually at the Rash Field memorial to the lost Pride.

A 25-year professional sailor, Miles was captain of the original Pride in voyages in 1981, 1983 and 1985 and has been captain of Pride II since it was launched in 1988.

It has seen heavy weather. On the 1990 trip to Europe, Pride II met Force 10 gales and 18-foot waves. The Pride will try to skirt the potentially dangerous El Nino weather patterns.

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