And by the way, the Pride II needs $400,000

Baltimore's goodwill ship lost its masts, took other damage in race accident

Katrina's Wake

September 10, 2005|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Jerry's Kids are doing without. Same goes for Baltimore police and firefighters.

Hurricane Katrina victims have tugged so hard on America's heartstrings that fundraisers for other causes are suddenly shifting focus to benefit storm survivors.

So when the group that runs the Pride of Baltimore II announced a "Raise the Rig" campaign for the ship after both masts collapsed this week, the timing was very awkward.

"It isn't ideal, is it?" said Carol L. Hirschburg, a board member for Pride of Baltimore Inc., a nonprofit organization that operates the state-owned vessel.

But Hirschburg was confident that the money needed for repairs - estimated yesterday at $400,000 - could be raised.

"The Pride has many fans," she said. "I think there are many people that will reach in their pockets and add the Pride to the list of things they are supporting now."

The replica of a 19th-century ship, which serves as a goodwill vessel for Maryland and the port of Baltimore, was participating in a race of tall ships Monday in the Bay of Biscay when an iron fitting connected to the ship's bowsprit broke off, Jan C. Miles, one of the ship's two captains, said by telephone yesterday from Saint-Nazaire, France. That caused the bowsprit and then both masts to give way.

None of the 18 crew members or guests on board was injured.

Miles expressed confidence that the ship would be repaired, even when so much money and attention are being drawn to the hurricane region - and when some question whether New Orleans should even be rebuilt.

"It's incomprehensible what's going on there," he said. "We're fortunate to have no real tragedy because nobody got injured.

"But the boat has tremendous importance to the image that is Maryland. If Maryland can't find instant money, that would create a lie of what it is we were representing all along. It would beg the question of Maryland's view of itself."

The cost to repair the ship, initially estimated at $200,000, could top $400,000, said Missy Berger, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit.

Miles said they were "still absorbing" how much damage the falling masts did to other parts of the vessel -from a torn sail to a lost radar antenna.

"Everyone just focused on the rig," he said. "But oh, yeah, the boat also got damaged."

Launched in 1988, Pride of Baltimore II was the replacement for the Pride of Baltimore, which capsized and sank off the coast of Puerto Rico during a storm May 14, 1986. The captain and three of the 11 crewmembers died.

Given the emotional pull of that history, some expect the ship will be able to count on plenty of local support - hurricane or not.

"It's a historic piece of Baltimore. I think it's real important to our community's pride and our sense of who we are," said Linnea Anderson, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross's Central Maryland chapter. "Everybody has something on their plate. And life goes on."

But others say it's a tough time to draw dollars to anything other than Katrina relief.

"It's hard to compete," said Josh Levinson, organizer of a charity road race scheduled for tomorrow that remade itself in Katrina's wake. "It shouldn't be a competition. But they're competing for attention, and I wouldn't be starting a nonprofit today for another cause."

Since the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the St. Joseph Run to Remember has raised money for Baltimore police and fire foundations. But like Jerry Lewis, who added Katrina relief to his annual Labor Day telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, race organizers quickly revamped their event to benefit police and fire agencies in the storm region.

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