Capt. Armin E. Elsaesser III chronicled the Pride of Baltimore's transatlantic voyage with the passion of a man deeply in love with the sea and its lure. He wrote in his log about the "twelve brave souls in a small but well found ship heading out into the vast lonely wastes of the sea."
Yesterday, two of his brave souls were presumed drowned and two others, including Elsaesser, were missing in those lonely wastes. The four lost sailors all had been drawn to the Pride by a love of the sea or a love of adventure, but as individuals they could not have been more different.
There was 5-foot 2-inch Jeanette (Nina) Schack, a 23-year-old college student from Baltimore whose sailing experience was so sparse that she had been turned down by the Cornell University sailing club. "Tiny Nina," Elsaesser called her in his log, whose "innocent good cheer makes up for her diminutive size."
There was Barry Duckworth, 29, who grew up in Northern Virginia and started sailing as soon as he was old enough to maneuver a little Sunfish on the Potomac and Chesepeake Bay. "The happiest I ever saw him was when he was out on the ocean and the water," said Duckworth's older brother, James. "The land was just someplace to visit. I don't think he saw it as something for him."
There was Vincent Lazzaro, 27, from West Redding, Conn., who studied the sea in college and later taught others how to sail it. Tall, handsome and rugged, and a friend to many, he still was described as a loner. While the others had fought to join the prestigious crew of the Pride, Lazzaro's mother said Pride officials had sought out her son for his engineering skills.
And there was Elsaesser, 42, who grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, but learned to sail during family summers on Buzzard's Bay, Mass., under the tutelage of a local minister, said his father, John. He is a scholar of maritime history, a lover of Joseph Conrad novels and a master sailor. "Everything he had ever done was connected with the water," John Elsaesser said, "and this was the ultimate for him, to command a so-called tall ship."
Yesterday, families and friends of the four, waiting in different parts of the country for their phones to ring with news, talked about the sailors.
Jim Milinger, dean of the oceanographic school for college students at Woods Hole, Mass., where Elsaesser taught, said he was not surprised that the captain may have gone down with his ship, though not for any romantic reasons of honor. "Armin is not a romantic," said Milinger. "He is a safe seaman, a very cautious one. He would have been trying to save lives."
Elsaesser, he said, has impeccable credentials for his job. He holds a "master of sail license, one of the top licenses you can get," said Milinger. He taught at Milinger's school, the Sea Education Association, and according to his father once built reproductions of the sailboats of the past generations. His fondness for the sea and his talent for words were evident.
"Now we are flying," he wrote in his log on April 2 as the Pride skimmed the Atlantic on forceful and friendly trade winds. "The Power! The Energy! The giddy feeling of soaring through liquid blue space, heaving, groaning, sails bellied and straining and tugging . . . . Photographs can't capture it. One must see it and hear it and sense it as Pride slices an ocean path to her destination."
Duckworth fought hard to see and hear and sense the Pride's power, working almost all his life toward that moment. His stepfather, Bob Jewett, said that when Duckworth was 14 they heard that someone was building a 55-foot schooner "from the keel up" in Alexandria, and they went to the visit the site.
"He stayed, and I went home, and I lost my son for eight years," said Jewett, who said Duckworth spent evenings and weekends with the builder until they finished and launched the schooner. After that, Duckworth studied the design and building of wooden boats, now a rare art, by apprenticing with masters in the trade.
"He tried for three years to join the Pride crew , and they were very, very selective," said Jewett, who now lives in Georgetown, Del. "It was something he worked for and finally got."
Last September, Duckworth, now presumably drowned, got word that he had been chosen, and three months ago he flew to Europe to join the crew as the ship's carpenter, said Jewett.
"He was a very happy young man," said Jewett. "His long-term goal was to captain a tall ship. He had already captained some smaller, very fine, very important vessels. He was well on his way. Now, we'll never know."
Schack also had grand plans. More than anything, according to a former Cornell roommate, she wanted to travel the world. "She took a semester in Denmark and from there she went to Russia, Paris, Italy," said Susan West. "Last year she went to Hawaii. For someone 23, she had been a lot of places."
West believed that it was the lure of foreign cultures that drew Schack, who also is presumed dead, to the job as deckhand on the Pride. Once on the ship, she entertained the crew with excerpts from the World Book encyclopedia about their ports of call, according to the captain's log. "She enlightens us at dinner," he wrote. "The descriptions are childish and hopelessly out of date, but very funny."
Said West: "She just loved to see different places. She was fun, fun, fun."
One of her mates in the ship's close quarters was not quite so bubbly.
Lazzaro, a confident, contemplative man, busied himself operating and maintaining the engine room. He distinguished himself by his dedication, his college professor said. "His name rings in my ears because he did super work and went out and got good jobs," said Dick Wing, a professor at the University of Rhode Island's Commercial Fishing School.
After graduating from the two-year program, Lazzaro moved to Maine. There he worked aboard commercial fishing boats, perfecting his engineering skills. Then, in 1984, he thought about sharing his talents, and began teaching high school students how to survive at sea.
As an instructor at the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, he led 26-day survival boat trips down the coast of Maine for students.
"There would be about 10 or 12 on a 30-foot boat," said the school's president, Peter Willauer. "It was like a raft, and they could stop at shore and climb on the rocks if they wanted." The groups ate, slept and spent most of the month on the boat, he said, "because we use the sea to teach people about themselves."
Last week, Lazzaro, now missing, wrote to a friend that he was getting bored on the Pride. "He wrote he was anxious to come home," said Irene Pendelton, another friend. "He was glad he was coming home."