The Pride of Baltimore II, the city-based clipper ship and Maryland goodwill ambassador, is being repaired by two French companies in St.-Nazaire, France, and is set to return to the state in early spring, in time for the Volvo Ocean Race.
The Pride II was severely damaged Sept. 5 when a rigging failure during a squall caused the ship's wooden bowsprit, foremast and mainmast to collapse while the ship was racing in the Bay of Biscay off the coast of France.
Linda Christenson, executive director of Pride of Baltimore Inc., the nonprofit that manages the ship's fundraising and finances, said several European companies made bids to repair the ship. Pride II selected one company, Gauthier Lamelle Colle, to provide laminated masts, and the other, Teck Nautique, to shape them and handle other repairs.
"It was fortuitous that we wound up in France," she said. "The western coast of France has a long, renowned history of shipbuilding."
Once the ship is repaired in late February, it will stop in Lisbon, Portugal, then sail back across the Atlantic Ocean. After a stop in Puerto Rico, it will head up the East Coast, reaching Baltimore and then Annapolis in late April and early May.
The crew has been treated well in France. The Pride II has been provided with free dockage, water and electricity while it is repaired. The community has welcomed the sailors, as well. Local fishermen have given fresh catch for dinner, and residents have thrown parties and invited them over for meals.
On Nov. 18, the ship's captain and crew received an award at Sail Training International's annual conference in La Coruna, Spain. Christenson said they received the award because no one was hurt when the ship was damaged, and the crew was able to salvage the boat. The accident happened when the boat ran into a squall with 7-foot waves and strong winds, causing the bowsprit to break. That led to a domino effect, Christenson said, splintering the foremast and then breaking the mainmast.
"It's amazing that no one was injured," she said. "It's a tribute to Captain [Jan] Miles and the crew, who handled themselves in such a stellar way."
Jefferson Holland, director of the Annapolis Maritime Museum, said the local boating community was shocked when news of the incident reached Annapolis, especially because many crew members are well-known in the area.
"We were relieved when we found out there were no injuries," he said.
Pride of Baltimore Inc. has initiated a "Raise the Rig" fundraising drive to cover $240,000 in improvements that will not be paid for by insurers, Christenson said. So far, it has raised about 16 percent of the money.
The Pride II was commissioned in 1988 as a memorial to the Pride of Baltimore, which sank in 1986 after being hit by a squall off the coast of Puerto Rico. The newer ship, a replica of Baltimore clipper ships famous for their role in fighting the British Armada in the War of 1812, sails and races as a goodwill and economic development ambassador for Maryland and the port of Baltimore.
Christenson said the ship sails all over the world raising awareness for Maryland businesses. Local businesses and state agencies can host meetings and receptions with customers on board. The ship also holds a learning program for middle and high school students.
Holland said he was recently in the city of Baltimore, Ireland, and saw a photo of the Pride II autographed by Miles and the crew.
"She had been there fairly recently, and she's well-known anywhere she goes," he said.