Among the traditionally cryptic, bureaucratic list of state employe job titles this year was one a little more cryptic than usual.
"Master," read the notation in the proposed state of Maryland budget, "$13,345."
Translated, it means that the state of Maryland is willing to pay $13,345 a year to somebody to be a full-time sailor, based on the St. Mary's River in the far southern reaches of the state.
The job is not quite as easy as it sounds. The sailor would have to know something of American maritime history of the 17th century and something about the maintenance of wooden vessels. And he would have to be able to sail a kind of square-rigged vessel that hasn't been widely used for more than 200 years.
The job will be open some time toward the end of the summer, when the reconstruction of the "Dove" - the small supply vessel that accompanied Maryland's first settlers to the New World in 1634 - is complete.
At the moment, a reconstructed model of this three-masted 17th century supply ship is being built in the small Eastern Shore town of Lloyds in Dorchester County. But the state historians supervising the project don't just want a boat that will sit on display, they want a vessel they can sail - and they need someone to sail it.
"This is obviously the rarest kind of animal of find," said Burton Kummerow, who is working as a "coordinator of research" on the project. "It has to be someone who's had some square-rigger experience, and there aren't very many square-riggers around any more."
At the moment, the talent seach for the new "Dove's" new captain is being conducted informally, with help from William A. Baker, the Boston-based Naval architect who a few years ago designed the Mayflower II, a reconstructed version of the pilgrim's original vessel.
And the project directors are adamant about wanting a ship that will actually be used. "We don't want something that's a hospitality vessel, a ship promoting something else like the 'Pride of Baltimore,'" Kummerow added. The 50-ton "Dove" will be used "to help explain this period (of history) to the outside world," he said.
In fact, he added, thedescriptions of the "Dove" constitute most of what people know about a poorly documented century of Maryland history. And scholars cannot even agree on exactly what the "Dove" looked like. She was lost off the Irish coast about a year after Lord Baltimore's ships first landed in Maryland.
Kummerow, however, is a little more worried about the lack of knowledge of square-rig sailing in this country. "If they don't move, these vessels have a tendency of rotting fairly quickly," he explained. The new "Dove" is supposed to go up and down the river twice a week, he said.
"The last people who know about square riggers are dying out," he said. Then he added "at least the river is fairly wide, so we'll have some room to practice.
As soon as they find their "master," that is.