Of 16 port calls stretched over five months and 10,000 nautical miles, the Pride of Baltimore II was late for only one: its homecoming.
To shouts of "Welcome home," the replica of a 200-year-old topsail schooner returned to its berth at the Inner Harbor yesterday - two days later than expected because of bad weather en route from Puerto Rico.
"It's a little anti-climactic, through nobody's fault other than the storm off Cape Hatteras," said Lee Vogtman, chairman of the theater arts department at Brunswick High School in Frederick County, who spent three months on the Pride II as the official Teacher Aboard.
But, he said, "It does feel good to be home."
A small crowd gathered at Harborplace under a clearing sky as the Pride II fired its cannons and sailed the last few hundred yards to home.
Ship-lovers snapped photographs and former sailors shouted greetings to the 12-person crew. Among the locals reunited with his family was Captain Daniel Parrott, whose wife, Kimberly gave birth just a few weeks before he set off to Europe to command the ship.
The Pride II, which was commissioned as a memorial to its predecessor two years after it sank off Puerto Rico in 1986, began its five-month tour June 29, leading the Parade of Sail out of Baltimore harbor at the end of OpSail 2000.
Known as Maryland's "Goodwill Ambassador," Pride II took part in tall ship events in New York and Boston, then joined 40 vessels in a trans-Atlantic race from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the English Channel.
From there, the ship went on to participate in two other tall ship events, Sail Amsterdam 2000 in the Netherlands and Sail Bremerhaven 2000 in Germany. The events drew hundreds of thousands of visitors. The ship made official calls in London, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Portugal and Madeira.
The stop in Ireland was of particular note because the port the ship visited there is also known as Baltimore.
Vogtman called his experience a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity. Middle school pupils throughout the state have been able to follow his travels through "virtual" dispatches and digital photographs posted on the Internet (www.pride2.org).
During his three months on board, Vogtman said he received more than 700 e-mails from students, parents and others following his journey.
"This was probably the perfect union of getting back to nature - the sailing, the sightseeing - and the technology to communicate all that, to share," he said.
Vogtman celebrated a few holidays while on board, including his 47th birthday and Thanksgiving, which was complete with turkey, stuffing, gravy and plantains.
"We had a great Thanksgiving, and that lessened the disappointment of not being at home with our families," he said.
The Pride of Baltimore II left San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Nov. 12, and was to have returned Friday to an official welcome celebration.
But stormy weather forced the ship to "heave to" for 36 hours - meaning the sails were set in one direction and the rudder in the other. That kept the Pride II at a standstill, said Jerome Bird, the ship's education director.