‘Pride of Baltimore II’ offers an engaging look at the privateer days

Written by on September 5, 2012 in Featured, Neighborhood News - No comments

Topsail schooners, exemplified here by the “Pride of Baltimore II,” were common during the War of 1812 era. According to Jamie Trost, Partner Captain of the Pride, the fast ships were ideal for getting around or through a British blockade. Photo by Erik Zygmont

Those who keep the “Pride of Baltimore II” afloat and participating in the tall ships scene have the same attitude of the privateers of the War of 1812, says Partner Captain Jamie Trost.

“It’s always been a pick me, can do, over here sort of process,” said Trost, who is one of two rotating captains of the Pride.

“Privateering, too, was inspired citizens pulling together.”

Pride of Baltimore Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, established in 1981 at then-mayor Donald Schaefer’s request.

“The city realized they couldn’t manage a ship as well as run a city,” said Trost.

After a trip down the New England coast—from Maine to Nantucket to New York City—the “Pride of Baltimore II” returned to the Broadway Pier last week and is now docked in the Inner Harbor through tomorrow (Thursday). Ship tours area available today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Pride then sails to Fort McHenry for Defenders Day celebrations. Free ship tours are available on Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.

The “Pride of Baltimore II” is named for privateer Thomas Boyle’s ship, the “Chasseur,” which was hailed as the Pride of Baltimore upon its return from the War of 1812. Chasseur is the French word for hunter. According to Trost, even the name was an insult to the enemy.

“No sound was more offensive to the British than the French language,” he said.

Boyle is famous for, among other things, proclaiming a blockade of England, which was nailed to the door of Lloyd’s of London, a prominent insurer, Trost said. Lloyd’s started demanding that all insured British merchant ships travel with a military escort, another stress factor leading to the end of the war.

Privateers like Boyle raided British merchant ships and took their goods and treasures. They were not paid by the U.S. government—legal obstacles to piracy against the British were simply lifted.

“It was one of the most extreme venture capital ideas in history,” said Trost.

Jamie Trost of the “Pride of Baltimore II”

Privateers bought their own ships and paid their crews. If they successfully plundered the British merchant ships, then they made a lot of money. If not, “you were basically out the cost of the ship and all the wages of the crew,” said Trost.

Many of the privateers were merchants themselves. The British kept them from crossing the seas and making their money in peace.

“They adapted their own trade in a way that helped their country and helped themselves,” said Trost. “Instead of loading their ships up with cargo, they loaded up with guns to take cargo from the enemy.”

Since sailing out of Baltimore harbor on June 19 at the conclusion of the Star Spangled Sailabration festivities, the “Pride of Baltimore II” sailed up to Halifax and back down, stopping at various ports along the way. Trost says that sailing a replica wooden ship such as the Pride is “a lot more work” than sailing a modern boat.

“We haven’t learned a whole heck of a lot more about sailing in the last 200 years,” he said, “but we have learned about the strength of materials and the applicability of materials.”

In other words, the Pride sails more or less like a modern ship, but one must take into account that it is built from un-modern materials.

The ship has an engine room—”We have a schedule to keep,” said Trost—and a relatively-modern cabin below decks to accommodate the professional crew of 12, plus up to 6 working guests, who learn sailing while engaged in “adventure travel.”

“We work people hard enough on deck that we don’t want to make their lives miserable below decks,” said Trost.

by Erik Zygmont

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