The Voyage to Baltimore

At the start of the summer the ship was made ready for a trip south down the Chesapeake to Baltimore, MD and then onward to Norfolk, VA. After taking the ship apart last fall and working on all of the rigging we spent the month of May and part of the trip south putting everything back together again.

The entire trip was to be three weeks, although I was only able to be aboard for the first week from Philly to Baltimore. The weekend before we were to leave we spent getting the topmasts back into position and tuning the rigging. The voyage to Baltimore was done using the engine exclusively as we were putting the sails on en route.

We took two days to voyage to Baltimore. Halfway we stopped overnight in the C&D Canal and tied up next to a bar. Now that I think of it, this was the first time I took a tall ship to go to a bar. Anyway, the first day I was part of the watch that was working on putting the ship together. A lot of the day I spent climbing up the masts and going down below in the hold looking for the various parts to the ship.

Once we arrived at the bar we prepared the ship to receive visitors. The patrons that were at the bar already and who had witnessed us docking we allowed to come on board and look around. This is also a way the ship makes money from donations. We don’t usually charge a fee to board, but we do have a donations box that we place in a prominent location. It is by these generous donations that we are able to keep the ship sailing.

After we were done letting the public look around we began to prepare for the evening. What this meant was that the crew was free to do what they liked with the exception of one person that had to stay aboard and be “on watch”. The ship’s crew was divided up into two groups, or watches. On the trip from Philadelphia on watch was assigned to navigation, while the other was working on putting the ship back together. Here at the dock, the watch that was doing the work putting things together had the job of standing watch during the night. So we each took turns being the one person “on watch”.

My shift was 1am-2:30am or 0100-0230 in the 24 hour clock. All was quiet for the most part.

All hands work up the next morning around 7am for breakfast and then to get the ship ready to leave and continue on to Baltimore.

The watches switched positions for this journey. The watch that had been on navigation the day before now was assigned to putting the ship back together. This meant that my watch was now on navigation. As part of this watch we would rotate through various positions including lookout, helm (steering the ship), and boat check/fire watch. The parson doing the boat check pretty much went though all parts of the ship making sure we were not sinking or on fire. I started as boat check, but then got stuck at lookout for most of the journey. I didn’t really mind as look out is a pretty easy job and I got to play with binoculars. So I spent most of the day making sure we didn’t hit any channel markers, other boats, or get crab traps caught in our propeller.

As we got closer to Baltimore I moved from lookout to helm. This was the first time I ever steered this boat before. I have steered plenty of other craft, but this was probably the largest. On the watch list I wasn’t scheduled to be at the helm at this point in the day, but the person that was didn’t seem to keen on being at that station going into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and knew I was leaving the ship in Baltimore so he traded with me. He also knew I had never steered the ship before. So he did ask me if I was comfortable being on the helm and he would do it if I didn’t want to, but of course me not likely to step away from a challenge of this sort and perfectly confident in steering any form of watercraft I may encounter, I said I would do it.

And so I took the wheel and took a minute or two to get the feel of how the ship moved. I might have briefly scared the mate and the captain as I started out by oversteering slightly. But one I got the feel of how the ship responded things went pretty smoothly. I took the ship from the Chesapeake into the Inner Harbor and right alongside the dock.

In Baltimore we spent our time working on the ship and allowing the public to come on board for tours. When not doing one of those two things we were allowed off the ship and could do whatever we like in Baltimore. One day I went to Fells Point with some other crew members. We had lunch and walked around for a bit. We even took a tour of another ship that was in the city for the weekend.

In the evening the crew, except for the person that was stuck on watch would usually hang out and have a beer or two. We either hung out on deck or went to the local sailor bar.

I ended up staying on the ship one night longer than I anticipated due to some convincing by shipmates. Although I had earlier given up my bunk to a new crew member and had packed up my things. So I ended up sleeping on the deck that last night. It worked out well though as I was able to slip away in the early morning and make my way to the train station.

The ship arrived back in Philadelphia two weeks later after having traveled down to Norfolk, VA. I was there on the dock to catch the lines and bring her in. Once the ship was secure and the crew was relieved by the officers, we turned out attention to the important matters of celebrating the voyage and the successful return.

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