"I grew up on the water because my father was in love with the water. He did a lot of cruising. I just turned 60. I've been sailing professionally since early high school.
In the fall of 1980, I got a call from a gentleman who was the captain of the first Pride of Baltimore, saying he wanted to have a bit of a respite. He was candid, saying there were other candidates involved, but would I be interested? I said 'Yeah, I'm interested.' I didn't hear a thing until February or March of 1981 when I got a call back. That led to myself and two other gentlemen becoming a three-captain rotation from 1981 to 1986.
The Pride of Baltimore legacy involves two vessels. The first vessel was intended to be tied up to a dock and be the iconic representation of a very wonderful bit of American history. She's a seaworthy reproduction of a privateer-style ship, which became famous during the War of 1812. But in the process of building that vessel in 1976, the question was raised: Could this be Baltimore's sailing ambassador? That got people thinking, and, eventually, the Pride started sailing and, when she's in port, the vessel is generally available for public tours or short sails.
That is how she went for 10 years. But then she was lost tragically coming back from Europe in May of 1986. She was sailing with 12 people and got lost in a microburst wind squall. It was a gust of 70 knots that happened all at once. It was impossible to predict. She capsized and disappeared within two minutes. Four lost, eight survivors.
The first Pride was so successful that the public put out a very strong voice saying they wanted a replacement Pride. Mayor Schaefer was dead set against it. His love and affection for the first boat was so strong that he couldn't imagine there would be another Pride of Baltimore. But the general public was so persistent it forced the hand of thinkers of the day, including Schaefer, to then revisit the discussion. So a second boat was built. I am one of two full-time captains.
We go all kinds of places. We went all over Europe, plus China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. The Asian sense of history is very long—we're talking about a societal memory that is 5,000 years old. Here we come from European North America, which is less than half a century old, and the Chinese, in particular, were touched that we would take an artifact of our history and present it.
I think the most memorable place was Baltimore, Ireland. That came about when we were taking the first vessel over to Europe. I was her skipper. I was approached by people about making a visit, but I was very cagey about committing because we already had an itinerary laid out, and my instinct was that the amount of time we had for going across the Atlantic was not generous. We got lucky and had terrific weather patterns all the way across. We wound up being a good two weeks ahead of schedule, and we spent most of it there in Baltimore, Ireland, a typically small Irish fishing town in the southern part of Ireland near Cork. The town eventually kind of adopted us. It was a terrifically intimate experience: good friendship, very little sleep, a lot of crewing. We've been back numerous times since with the second vessel.
There's no question [being a mariner] is a lifestyle choice. Sailing carries the mystery that is associated with going away, going over the horizon. The ship has the reputation she has because she goes and comes back. You have to make the voyage to capture the imagination and then come back and tell the tale of the voyage. On a personal level, I am as happy to have completed a voyage as I am interested in making a voyage.
People make hay out of the fact that I'm a lucky fellow because I wasn't on board when the first ship was lost. That kind of sentiment is appreciated, but it really doesn't have any bearing. The way things work at sea is the same way things work when we get in our cars and go to work. What is the chance that something can go tragically wrong? Most of us get by. Every once in a while that gamble doesn't pay off.
Now have I been lucky? Yes, exceedingly lucky. My whole career, my whole existence in the maritime business has been a very fortunate one. Who could have predicted back in the '60s, when I was in high school, that I would wind up in a career such as this? My father is a foreign service guy, a Ph.D.-level economist and a political scientist. My sister went to university. I did not. For all intents and purposes, I was headed to be a failure. Look at me now! And it wasn't something that I pined for—it just came.