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Guest Blogger: Pride in the People

Posted by Erin on September 18, 2014

September 15, 2014

Pride of Baltimore II, alongside at Constellation Pier, Inner Harbor

Wx: East Force 1, 2/8 Celebratory Cumulus, the rest of the sky a Bicentennial Blue

Today’s dawn ushers in a whole new century of our storied national anthem, and a well-worn Pride II crew has seen to it that the ship and the city have marked the anniversary with style and passion. Some ships have already left, the guns and jets are silent now, crowds of visitors still swarm the harbor. But yesterday’s crescendo has washed over and while we bask in the success and import of “Spectacular,” the typical snap and bustle aboard is slightly leaden with fatigue. And no surprise – during the 25 hours actual hours of the Battle of Baltimore anniversary, crew and ship were in full action themselves. With a rotation of watches and captains, plus lots of work from shore side office staff, we scarcely stopped moving, and never stopped commemorating the incredible events of 200 years ago.

Photo Credit: Captain Jamie Trost

Photo Credit: Captain Jamie Trost

As the guns of Fort McHenry thundered out Saturday morning, we sailed alongside a British-flagged Lynx and waved a truce flag over our Francis Scott Key impersonator as he plead his case across the rail for Royal Marines to unhand Doctor Beanes. When the historically timed “re-enactment rain” came down (nearly to the minute, according to the 1814 accounts), we rigged awnings, waited for the sky to clear, then sailed in sleek silence under the roaring military muscle of the Blue Angels. As the town turned electric for the prelude to the fireworks, Pride paraded through the harbor to blast off a national broadcast with three guns. When the “bombs” of the pyrotechnics bust over Fort McHenry and Baltimore Harbor, 100 viewers joined us on deck. Then, once the dust settled, irrepressibly enthusiastic Ranger Vince Vaise from the Fort narrated a midnight retracing of the final desperate British assault on the batteries up the Ferry Branch of the Patapsco.

From three to six am things fell silent, just as they did in 1814. But the crisp morning ushered in a new flurry of action. The culminating moment of the weekend would feature Baltimore’s 1812 historic triumvirate – the Maryland Historical Society’s hand-sewn replica of the Star-Spangled Banner would be hoisted over the Fort while Pride II stood in the offing as Key’s truce ship President and a collected squadron of Tall Ships around here presented the invading British.

Photo Credit: Captain Jamie Trost

Photo Credit: Captain Jamie Trost

With Pride II booked full of enthusiastic passengers and logistics of the ship movementsrattling in my mind, Captain Miles and I decided it would work smoothest if he sailed the ship and I marshaled the squadron from a vantage ashore. To foster that plan along, Ranger Vaise welcomed me, along with my wife and parents, to survey the scene from the commanding perch of the Fort’s Bastion 5. Equipped with a handheld VHF and copies of the pages of notes and schematics I’d issued to the ships, we set off for the Fort’s dock in Pride II’s rescue boat. The physical bustle and tangible excitement at the Fort stewed with amazement – this was it, the very morning, the day when the focus of so much 1812 education, programming, efforts, and toiling over months and years was about to float in the September breeze for Baltimore and the world to see.

Ships trickled out from downtown. The inbound cruise ship Carnival Pride cleared the channel into South Locust Point and left the harbor to historic craft. US Armed Forces, and Sailors and Marines from our 1812 adversaries come allies Canada and England, took up position around dignitaries from local, state, and national governmentin the Parade Ground within the walls. Sun glinted off the black barrels of replica and modern armaments as they stood silently ready for a barrage of salutes. The cool northeast breeze streamed the Fort’s Storm Flag in anticipation.

The pieces started moving. Ranger Vaise, radiating excitement even through a veil of exhaustion, orchestrated the unfurling and preparation of the replica Garrison Flag. The ships slid over glittering water into position under a mantle of low cumulus. As the events of the battle were narrated, a crowd began to gather on the bastion around me, watching the ships. At first I was irritated – with eleven ships and two pulling boats to coordinate, I’d envisioned relative solitude to lay out my notes and coordinate via radio. Having a crowd to eavesdrop and chime in on the necessary communications might offer more than a slight nuisance.

But as the ceremony in the Fort and formation beyond the ramparts continued shaping up, I noticed there were nearly as many people onthe bastion with me as in the parade ground. They whispered questions: What’s that ship? Where are they from? What are they all doing? And I had time, as the squadron deftly arrayed themselves across the river, to answer all the questions. Between radio calls to shift and tighten up the line, I could tell the people, these mesmerized appreciators of history, what they were seeing and how much it looked like what Major George Armistead saw 200 years ago that very minute. I wasn’t alone, and was happy for it. I was surrounded by people who, like me, felt deeply moved by this instance, the commemoration of America’s emergence from a divisive and trying, nearly adolescent, conflict into maturity.

The Army Old Guard fired a salvo. When the smoke cleared and the guns fell silent, the ramparts were teeming with people. A last salute froma replica 24lb gun, and the fifing of “Yankee Doodle” lifted the hand-sewreplica aloft. Lynx and Sultana swapped their British ensigns for American. Salutes and cheers echoed from the ships. Through the smoke, their rigs etched a striking visage of history.

By 0940, Pride II was on station off the water battery and the ships processed in, saluting both her and the Fort. Pride II’s Key impersonator was standing at the rail, cheering in the new era of the Star-Spangled Banner. Up on the ramparts, the crowd around me pressed in, asking more eager questions whenever I wasn’t hailing the passing ships on radio to thank them for their part in this historic event. It got so crowded that we were forced off the bricks and (to the chagrin of the Rangers) onto the grass that sprouted from the earthworks. Like most forts of her era, FortMcHenry is mostly earthwork – largely composed of dirt, held together by bricksheathing. Throughout the 214 years of the Fort’s existence, the bricks have been renewed, but the earth inside is still the same.

Photo Credit: Captain Jamie Trost

Photo Credit: Captain Jamie Trost

And then I realized the truth of the week – that we at Pride, the Fort, and Maryland Historical Society had helped, but history had repeated itself organically. Two-hundred years ago, this week was won by the citizens of Baltimore unexpectedly repulsing the British attack. And as Fort, Flag, and Fighting Sail recreated the events of 1814 on a brilliantly sunny morning, it was we citizens of today’s Baltimore that stood on the very earthworks our counterparts defended two centuries ago. Our feet connected us to the timeline of history, the living earth of the Fort, the very foundation of our “Land of the free,” our “Home of the Brave.”

Captain Jamie Trost

 Click here to keep reading about Pride of Baltimore.

If you want to become a guest blogger, send the link to your blog to Erin @ tallshipsamerica.org.

Posted in 2007 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Hold Fast (It Would Be Silly To Let Go)

Posted by Erin on September 7, 2014

I was a rigrat until the day I got an office job. But I continued to clamber up every ship’s rig that I could, which is how I ended up aloft on the Star of India last week. It was a sunny day without much breeze, and the San Diego sky was almost as blue as the water. The Maritime Museum of San Diego had generously offered to take a knot of sailors aloft during the Festival of Sail.

First came the physical test, to demonstrate that we had the strength and ability to hold fast in the rigging. Next, we tugged on harnesses and listened to a safety briefing. Then, one by one, we pulled ourselves up onto a rail as high off the deck as I am tall, swung out over the water to grasp the lower shrouds, and began to climb.

IMG_1401 IMG_1393

At 278’ sparred length, the Star of India is the largest tall ship I’ve been on, and the components of her rig are as large as any I’ve seen. Traditionally rigged and iron-hulled, she is reminiscent of an era in which iron was becoming more prevalent in shipbuilding, and her rig reflects this juxtaposition of “old” and “new” materials. With a tight grip and sure footing, I scampered up the served and tarred starboard shrouds after a Star of India volunteer and a recently-acquainted friend from Pilgrim. Just below the futtocks, I paused, and stretched one leg outwards until my toes were resting on the parrel, an iron collar that attaches the mast to the yard. With a thrust of momentum, I drew my body across a gap between the shrouds and the main yard, forty feet above the wooden deck, and balanced myself against the cold metal of the course. With a call of “Laying on Starboard!”, I slid off the parrel and planted the arches of my Converse on the footropes. I was still free-climbing, clasping the solid jackstay as I inched my way sideways along the seventy-two foot long yard. But moments later, as our little group reached the end of the yard, I had a chance to clip in with my harness and pause to survey the view.

Looking down from Star of India

Photo Credit: Taylor McClanahan

 The water was below me, perhaps sixty feet beneath my feet. Within the bay, the water was calm, and the only waves that rocked our ship came from the wakes of passing vessels. On the deck, curious visitors the size of my thumb gazed skyward at us in the rigging. A crew member had gathered several children and adults and was assisting them in hauling lines to set sails. Towards shore, the festival grounds were packed. A line of visitors waited in line to get their souvenir passports stamped with images of the vessels they’d seen. Another crowd of festival-goers had converged on the vendor tents, eager for food and drink in the hot sun. Up on the windward yard, I could no longer smell the kettle corn that had been so enticing at ground level. But it was pleasant to simply be aloft again, for the first time in nearly a year, to swing my feet on the footropes and feel the wind in my hair.

Crew from Irving on Star of India

Photo Credit: Taylor McClanahan

Posted in 2014 | 2 Comments »

Ups & Downs on Irving

Posted by Erin on September 6, 2014

by Halcyon Spooner



Going to Dana Point on Irving Johnson

Throwing up over the bow on my watch


Feeling Awkward


Volunteering to clean all the heads

My bunk

Ripping my pants

The food

Banging my head

The crew
Walking 6 + miles to see a movie


Tide Pools

Going Aloft

Helping with dock lines


Living on Irving Johnson this past week had its ups and downs. Mainly UPS, but at times I couldn’t help the downs. My first true down was learning that once the sun goes down I get terribly sea sick. It’s the worst possible feeling when you know you threw up practically everything in your stomach but your body still wants to get things out of you. But on the up side, I got to refresh my navigation skills when I helped one of the crew members plot course for the night. Another down was me feeling awkward around the crew. This was my first time being with them for more than 3 hours, so at times you do run out of things to say. I believe the awkward feeling came from me feeling like the new person in the group, which is never good. Once I got over my awkwardness, I started to realize that the crew members on Irving Johnson are very friendly and funny people. A few other downs was me ripping my pants when climbing aloft to untie sails, volunteering to clean all the heads, and banging my head every time I came out of my bunk. Another up was doing maintenance, which involved me doing my two favorite things: sanding and oiling. Also: my bunk, the cook’s food, and the exploring of Dana Point with crew. We walked about 3 miles uphill to see a movie, drove 20 minutes to go snorkeling in what looked like a private beach, and also took midnight walks on a nearby beach to see tide pools. Overall, my time on Irving Johnson was worthwhile.


Posted in 2014, Internship Program | 1 Comment »


Posted by Erin on September 2, 2014

A view from the water

The waterfront here in San Diego is quiet. Too quiet. After four days of cannon fire reverberating throughout the downtown, crowds of people, and live music, it is disconcerting to hear the everyday sounds of San Diego on a typical weekday morning. Everything is back to normal. Luckily, Eliza, Halcyon and I have one more event in Dana Point next weekend. One more event to spend time with the tall ships and the new friends we have made out here on the West Coast. It’s hard to believe we are even at this point. Yesterday, we said goodbye to Halcyon as she sailed away on Irving Johnson, all smiles (Stay tuned for another blog post about her adventures on board). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 2014, Festival of Sail San Diego, Internship Program, Tall Ship Events | 1 Comment »

My Tole Mour Experience

Posted by Erin on August 30, 2014

My Tole Mour Experience

It was about 0800 when Erin and Eliza dropped me off at Tole Mour’s dock. It seemed like they were my parents, all happy and excited to see their young daughter go off on a new adventure. After they left, the crew on Tole Mour showed all the trainees which bunk section we would be staying in. I was staying in the section called Santa Rosa, with two other girls. We were able to pick our own bunks, so I choose the forward most bunk with a porthole view, which later became a problem on my part (seasickness).


About 0930, all hands were called forward for a muster. Captain Snark and Holly gave the welcome speech, talked about the boat, and gave information about the race. They showed us the course and explained the rules of the race. At that point I was very excited because I’ve never been part of the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Race Series. After a clear understanding that we were going to win, they wanted us all to introduce ourselves, so we had to answer 3 questions. What is your name? Where are you from? And what’s your favorite animated Disney movie? With that, I learnt that most of the crew was from the mid-west and there were a lot of animated Disney movies I haven’t seen. By the way, I’m from New York and my favorite animated Disney movie is “The Tigger Movie.” After a round of funny but interesting introductions, we were given our sea watches. I was placed in watch one, with 4 crew members and 5 trainees. The first thing we did was reintroduce ourselves to each other, then did a tour of the boat. While we were touring the boat, the crew members spoke to us about drills and muster stations; within the next 10 minutes, we heard an alarm and the crew shouting “abandon ship drill, abandon ship drill.” Everyone gathered to their muster stations and donned life jackets. After the drill, we all mustered forward again to get divided into two activity stations: line handling and marlinspike & seamanship. My first activity was line handling; they showed us how to make a line off to a pin, take a line off the pin safely and how to coil. Also they taught us the terms they use when handling lines, like ”made ready” which means have a top and bottom turn on the pin and “super ready” which means to only have a bottom turn on the pin.

The race stared at 1400. We crossed the starting line about a minute after the race started with Irving Johnson next to us and Exy Johnson and Bill of Rights behind us. It was a wonderful sight, seeing the cliffs of San Pedro behind us as we sailed towards San Clemente Island and San Diego. We had great wind conditions the whole trip. While we were sailing past Catalina Island, we spotted two whales in the distance. It was an amazing sight, especially for me because I never see any sea mammals in New York Harbor.

My watch that night was from 0000 to 0400; that was my first time sailing through the night. And it was just horrible – from the moment I got on deck, I felt sea sick. A crew member gave me some ginger ale, crackers, and some tips on how to stop feeling sick, but none of that prevented me from throwing up at least 5 times in a red bucket that was labelled “you will feel better :)” but, on the plus side, while I was coming up for air, I noticed about 1000 starts in the sky, and no other boats around us.


We had breakfast at 0700 and I felt much better. Shortly after breakfast, the captain announced that we had crossed the finish line and all the other boats were about 3 hours behind us. So, of course, everyone on board was thrilled on our possible win of the race. We turned on our engines, struck all sails, and began motoring towards La Jolla for some more activities. At 1030, we anchored off of La Jolla to do some snorkeling and some shanty singing. I chose to go snorkeling, so I got fitted for a wet suit, mask, boots, and fins. After a half hour of me struggling to put everything on, I entered the water, feet first to start an underwater adventure. The water was surprisingly warm and clear, so that didn’t stop us from seeing 10 leopard sharks, 2 horn sharks and a lot of sea grass. We got back on the boat in time for dinner, which I can say was amazing, then continued with some lovely shanty singing led by the crew and trainees.

My last moments on Tole Mour were the best. While heading back to the dock, a pod of dolphins followed us for about 2 hours, having fun with their babies, jumping in and out of the water and crossing under our bow. It was an amazing sight that I only got on video and soon hope to share with a lot more people.

I loved the people I sailed with on Tole Mour and looking forward to more adventures on the sail up to Dana Point.



Posted in 2014, Festival of Sail San Diego, Internship Program, Los Angeles, CA, Races, Tall Ship Events | Leave a Comment »

Staying classy in San Diego

Posted by Erin on August 29, 2014

At the start_Irving Johnson_Tole Mour_Exy Johnson

At the start_Irving Johnson_Tole Mour_Exy Johnson

After a busy week and a great race start in San Pedro, the Tall Ships America Race Team rolled in to San Diego on Tuesday ready for the Festival of Sail. While Halcyon sailed down the coast on Tole Mour (recap coming soon), Eliza and I scouted the site, did some laundry and enjoyed the wonderful waterfront that San Diego Maritime Museum presides over. San Diego Harbor is always full of sailboats and, as two shorebound sailors, Eliza and I can’t help but want to be out on the water enjoying the steady breeze. But the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE(r) requires our attention so we are content with just looking on enviously. San Diego Maritime Museum always puts on a wonderful event and, as the ships arrived at the dock yesterday after the Parade of Sail, the crew was happy to be here. Last night was the crew party on the Berkeley and our Executive Director, Bert Rogers, was on hand to present the awards for the race from San Pedro to San Diego, by way of San Clemente Island. From what I have heard, it was a spectacular run down to San Diego, complete with whale sightings, strong winds, shooting stars and, my personal favorite, dolphins playing in phosphorescence.

Race Results

We had four participants for the race – Tole Mour, Bill of Rights, Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson. The winners of the race are as follows:

Third Place – Exy Johnson
Second Place – Irving Johnson
First Place – Tole Mour

Thank you to all the participants and congratulations to Tole Mour! A huge thank you to LA Yacht Club in San Pedro for their time and help in pulling off a great race start.

For more photos, visit our Flickr page and for more updates follow us on Twitter @tallshipsfleet

Posted in 2014, Festival of Sail San Diego, Races, Tall Ship Events | Leave a Comment »

If the wind is right, you can sail away…

Posted by Erin on August 28, 2014

From my first race on Lake Arcadia many years ago to my most recent daysail at a Tall Ships® festival, sailing has, as President Kennedy once wrote, “given me some of the most pleasant and exciting moments of my life.” Such was the case, I am sure, for those aboard the vessels Tole Mour, Irving Johnson, Exy Johnson, and Bill of Rights earlier this week.

Monday dawned warm and sunny and, with it, the start of RACE DAY. Shortly after noon, Erin and I found ourselves on a motor yacht off the coast of San Pedro, California, with members of the LA Yacht Club. This excellent group of mariners has functioned as the Race Committee for prominent sailboat races all along the Pacific Coast. With learned precision, they dropped an orange buoy at a set of predetermined coordinates, thus identifying the port end of the starting line. We then motored one nautical mile further out to sea, until the orange mark was barely visible against the blue ocean waves. Here we left a small motor boat, with a green flag raised to mark their position at the starboard end of the line. But any tall ship sailor can warn you that small, dark objects in the water are near impossible to spot from a distance. Indeed, by the time we returned to the port end of the line in the motor yacht, the little motor boat was indistinguishable from the surrounding waves and the green flag a near-indecipherable blip above the horizon. With a quick reevaluation, we dropped a second orange mark at the starboard end of the line. We were now ready – and I, with all this coming about, was now quite seasick.

But my seasickness would have to wait because the race was about to begin. After a radio call to the participating vessels, the warning gun was fired at 1350 and the class flag was raised. Until this point, the ships had been setting their sails in the distance as they sailed alongside the cliffs. But now they approached the line with their white sails set and full. At 1355 a horn was sounded and the P flag set. Racing rules were now in place, engines had been shut down, and any vessel that crossed the line early would be penalized. Irving Johnson, on the far end of the line, was nosing in towards the starboard mark but did not cross. Tole Mour, who had been quite a distance from the starting line, had caught the wind and was flying towards the line. Exy Johnson was close behind, identified by the red waleboard and blue bottom paint that distinguishes her from Irving. Bill of Rights was pointed into the wind behind her, still setting sails.

At precisely 1400, the flags came down and the gun was fired. The race had begun! Two minutes later, Irving Johnson and Tole Mour blazed across, nose to nose. Exy Johnson and Bill of Rights followed shortly thereafter; their recorded times began individually as each crossed the line. We received updates through the night – starry skies, seasickness, dolphins, and excellent sailing – and by morning, Tole Mour had crossed the finish line and anchored to enjoy some snorkeling. Irving Johnson, Exy Johnson, and Bill of Rights completed the race a few hours later, shortly past noon.

The race was over…but the results were not in. Because these vessels have different rig shapes, different hull designs, and different sail areas (except for the twin brigantines, of course), each is assigned a numerical “handicap.” This numeral is used to adjust each vessel’s elapsed racing time and calculate their corrected racing time. This adjustment, designed to make races fair amongst various classed vessels, makes the outcome of this race anyone’s guess. So…who won the race, based on corrected time? You’ll have to wait to find out until Thursday, when we announce the winner at the San Diego Festival of Sail!

Posted in 2014, Races | Leave a Comment »

Halcyon Climbs Aloft

Posted by Erin on August 26, 2014




Replicating battle sails with our historical member vessels certainly makes for an exciting time during the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE®! From maneuvering around “enemy” vessels on the water to climbing aloft and furling sail at the dock, there are lots of adventures to be had. Halcyon was able to join the fun last Saturday during Tall Ships Festival LA 2014. Here’s what she has to say…


Sailing on fore and aft rigged schooners, you never really have good reasons to go aloft, especially when you need to clean up the deck after a sail. But that’s different when sailing on a brigantine.

Yesterday was my first time sailing on Brigantine Irving Johnson. I joined the crew on the foredeck to help pass the headsails, while we were at war with Exy Johnson and Spirit of Dana Point. With no casualties, of course, we arrived at the dock to drop off some very thrilled passengers. From there, as we all know, it’s time to clean up the deck.

I went around the deck to help coil and hang as many lines as I possibly could; while that was going on, I noticed about 5 crew members donning safety harnesses to go aloft to furl sails. The captain asked me if I wanted to go join the crew aloft, but I was a bit hesitant at first, mainly because I’ve never been aloft on a brigantine before. After a very informative safety speech, the captain escorted me up the fore shrouds to join the crew. When it came to the part where I had to step out onto the yards I was shaking, but after taking a deep breath and clipping in I felt perfectly fine and capable of handling the task in front of me.

- Halcyon Spooner, Tall Ships America Intern




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Posted in 2014, Internship Program | Leave a Comment »

Welcome to La-la-land

Posted by Erin on August 23, 2014

Irving Johnson, Exy Johnson, and Amazing Grace during the Parade of Sail into San Pedro. Photo: Port of LA

Irving Johnson, Exy Johnson, and Amazing Grace during the Parade of Sail into San Pedro. Photo: Port of LA

There is something about a fresh cinnamon roll that makes you realize your day is going to be just fine. This morning, during our early rounds of the Tall Ships(R) Festival LA, I timed it perfectly and was well rewarded for my efforts. The site was quiet, far different from all the crowds and preparation of the days before. However, it was the calm before the storm. Today, Saturday, the festival grounds are rocking and rolling – dozens of food trucks line the dock, cranking out everything from Mexi-Greek fusion to “lobstah” rolls, each with their own music and vibe. The four stages are constantly swarming with people listening to traditional Hawaiian music, classic rock and even The King- Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 2014, Internship Program, Los Angeles, CA, Races, Tall Ship Events | Leave a Comment »

Meet Halcyon, The New Race Team Member

Posted by Erin on August 23, 2014

Meet summer intern, Halcyon, the newest member of the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Race Team

Meet summer intern, Halcyon, the newest member of the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Race Team

When I was 8 years old my family moved to New York City from Saint Lucia. While moving to New York from a beautiful island in the Caribbean, I never thought that I’ll see the water again. That was until I started my freshman year at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, where they taught me that New York City is surrounded by 600 miles of coastline, which I needed to explore.

I started sailing on tall ships my sophomore year of high school, thanks to my Vessel Operations teacher, Captain Aaron Singh. I’ve had the opportunity to sail on Spirit of Massachusetts and Schooner Pioneer.

This past summer, I was hired as a deckhand on 1893, Schooner Lettie G. Howard, after a long winter restoration period.

Now I’m looking forward to some new adventures as a TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Intern, before the start of my senior year at New York Harbor School.

Posted in 2014, Internship Program | Leave a Comment »


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