The handcrafted 90-foot schooner Pride of Baltimore put into Washington for a week-long visit yesterday, freighted with history and the restlessness of young men and the sea.
Owned and operated by her city's people as a sailing celebration of civic pride, the $475,000 vessel was launched last May, the first authentic Baltimore clipper built in more than a century.
With her sharply raked masks and low freeboard, she's a showpiece of an ingenious era of ship design - a time in the early 1800s when the small, speedy clippers ruled the coastal waters as privateers, smugglers and revenue cutters.
But for those who sail on her she is something more - a grueling lesson in what life once required at sea, and what it offered in return.
"There's not much romance left after the first week," said Jim Bradley, 19, who saw the Pride in the Norfolk-to-Baltimore race this summer and never rested until he joined her crew.
"It's brutally hard word," said Melbourne Smith, the Canadian-born artist and shipwright who built the ship for the city and is now its captain. "Just donkey work,like hauling ropes and bulling anchors around...painting, cleaning. It never stops."
After a week on the crew, new recruits awake to areality of bleeding hands, bruised feet, exhausted muscles and a salary of $10 a day, which may rise to $15.
"But there aren't many real sailing ships built anymoer," said Peter Boudreau, the Pride's brooding 22-year-old mate, as the ship crossed the Chesapeake Bay under sail Tuesday. "To sail on this one was the chance of a lifetime. I couldn't miss it."
The Pride was built with few modern compromises in her functional 130-year-old design. Headroom below deck is little more than five feet. There are no portholes. Crewmen sleep in stuffy, stgian gloom, their hammocks slung inches beneath the crossbeams. There is no refrigerator, no shower, little place to sit or read below deck.
The work goes on seven days a weck, with scarecely time to sleep.
"But there is not other ship like this," said Bob Wallace, a 26-year-old former sea scout from Hyattsville who once crewed around the world in a 100-foot schooner called Romance. "This is history."
Baltimore clippers virtually rewrote the maritime record books in their brief heyday on the high seas from 1776 to 1840.
Rarely more than 100 feet in length, they were principally coastal ships designed more for light cargo and maximum speed than for heavy, ocean-going freight.
They reached their greatest fame as blockade runners and privateers during the Was or 1812 when they would put to sea with 40 men, out-running any pursuing warships and capturing unarmed merchantmen, which were then sailed home by prize crews.
Near the end of their era they were also used as slavers - and as revenue cutters in an effort to throttle the slave trade: it took one Baltimore clipper to catch another.
The Pride of Baltimore, when fully rigged, carries seven sails, totaling 9,523 square feet of sail area; two trapezoidal mainsails rigged on her two main masts; a tringular jib and stay-sail ahead of the forward mast; two square-rigged sails hanging from yards on her forward mast; and a small triangular topsail over her mainmast.
When the wind is up she sails easily at 12 knots.
Tuesday morning she left Deal Island, Md., under a southeast wind and fair skies, the crew adding sails as the breeze freshened near Point Lookout.
Bourdeau, at the tiller, talked about the ship's maiden Voyage to Bermuda last May.
"It got fairly hairy . . . 65-knot winds, seas about 18 feet... We were still learning how to rig the ship and things were breaking . . . Everyone was seasick...
"But she was beautifully strong. You have to run her before a storm. She digs in her bowsprit too much if you try to head her into the waves."
Smith built the ship from plans drawn from British and French books, since the Chesapeake Bay clipper builders apparently built from instinct and memory.
"The thing that's fun about a ship like this is that there's nobody alive who ever sailed one or knows how to," said Smith, apparently delighted at the thought. 'You have to discover everything yourself.
"Of course that's the hell of it, too. We've had to replace the standing rigging on this ship three times in four months. Each time something was wrong. But we're learning."
The Pride made the Bermuda trip, and another to Halifax, largely crewed by men who had built the ship.
"Now we're trying to find a full-time crew," Smith said. "But it requires a special sort of person. In the eight months we built her the builder took only two days off. You can't expect everyone to do that. They have to do it (serve on the crew) because they want to . . . because they care."
"When I asked to join the crew, they said, 'Will you work a week for nothing?'" said Wayne Safrit, 27, a ski instructor and bricklayer who joined the crew just week ago. "I said, 'Well, if hard work is the answer, I've got it made. I didn't think anything could be harder than the masonry work I'd been doing. Within two days I was eating my words."
Those who can't take the endless work move on, and Smith and Boudreau replace them with other crewmen they come upon in various ways.
Skip Newcomer, 23, of Emmitsburg, Md., read of the ship's progress during building in the Baltimore papers and kept showing up a the project and writing letters until he was hired on in Bermuda.
A bearded biology graduate of Mount Saint Mary's, he plans to stick with the Pride for a year or so "until I have to get a real hob and make some money."
The Pride will be open at the Maine Avenue dock from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday until Sept. 14, when she will depart for Baltimore.
In November she will leave for a Winter tour in the Caribbean: San Juan, Caracas, Cartagena, Colombia, and Havana.
"It would cost as much to store this ship as it will to keep her moving," said Smith. "We'd rather keep her moving."