The Harbor Has Had Some Notable Visitors, and Locals

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We’ve visited Baltimore Harbor since I last wrote. The harbor is quite large and spread out, with a mix of mainly of commercial use with yacht clubs and marinas also.

I had a special reason for visiting here, which I’ll mention later. Baltimore Harbor has tourist related vessels/museums near the World Trade Center. For a small fee visitors can ride the elevator of the World Trade Center to the top, 29 stories up. The complete floor with four sides of windows allows for a fantastic view of the surrounding harbor and city. Much of the inside is a tribute to the New York World Trade Center, felled on 9/11. There are shirts and memorabilia that can be purchased with the funds going to New York-related charities to help families in recovery.

Adjacent to the high-rise office building are three vessels converted into floating museums, and their inspection fees help maintain the vessels and fund related events throughout the year.

One vessel is a 180-foot retired Coast Guard ship that patrolled the East Coast for more than 30 years. A second vessel is about 140 feet, and looked like an elderly freighter or World War II Liberty ship, but for almost 50 years had been an anchored light house off a well-traveled point near Baltimore.

The final ship we saw was to us the most impressive. It was the USS Constellation, restored as was in 1850 when it was launched. At about 200 feet, and 40 feet wide, it was most impressive. It is three-masted and rigged for square sails and, as a former combat ship, has approximately 20 cannons on each side. It has probably 20 feet of freeboard, (water level to top of hull,) and the hull is painted black. While the USS Constitution in Boston is more famous for its victory in the War of 1812, the Constellation is similar in size and appearance.

While these vessels are impressive and an asset to their harbor, we were visiting for a different reason. Prior to 1984 the Pride of Baltimore visited Newport Harbor on one of its many voyages of over 150,000 miles. This vessel was a replica of the schooners used as privateers in the War of 1812. They were very successful as private ships which were fast enough to outrun the British blockades in the Chesapeake Bay and brought desperately needed supplies to American troops. They captured numerous British merchant ships, which disrupted trade to England. One local privateer sailed the Atlantic to England and captured 17 British ships and earned the name “Pride of Baltimore.”

Shortly following the Pride’s Newport Harbor visit, it was hit by a squall off Puerto Rico and sank, losing the captain and three crew members.

Within two years an exact replica, the Pride of Baltimore II, was built and launched to continue as the goodwill ambassador for the city of Baltimore. When at home and other ports, schoolchildren are encouraged to inspect this warship-styled privateer.

I was able to find the “Pride” berthed with a dozen other legendary elderly schooners in town for a once-a-year schooner race held as a charity to benefit Baltimore schoolchildren. The Pride II has logged more than 200,000 miles visiting our coasts and Asia. She has stopped in San Francisco and I believe San Diego in the past.

When the first “Pride” arrived off our jetty, as with past visiting VIP ships, a large armada of Newport Harbor boats came out for a meet and greet. I’ve always hoped we could do the same for the Pride of Baltimore II. During the original ship’s visit prior to the catastrophe, she was berthed at the Newport Sea Base and hundreds of our school-age children and adults were able to go aboard and see what a privateer was all about.

Newport Harbor has had in our past many noteworthy former Navy and similar notoriety type vessels berthed in our harbor. East of Bay Island and kept on a mooring in the “C” area was P.T. Joe. This former World War II PT boat was always in better-than-new condition. The machine guns and torpedo tubes had been removed but everything else on the outside was just as the Navy had it, except the gray paint was gloss instead of flat.

A worker would row out five days a week to continue the flawless upkeep. Once a week he would start and run the three V-12 Allison aircraft engines. You could literally hear their roar more than a mile away. The owner didn’t use her much, but once a year she would venture to LA Harbor, which was the closest place to obtain aircraft fuel for her engines. It was a special day for us if we were on the beach to see this speeder run up or back in the ocean off our shores.

At about 75-feet Christina, a converted fast-rescue World War II-era yacht painted gloss white, would be berthed off and on at the Balboa Bay Club. The design was similar to a PT boat’s. In the late ’80s she burned to her waterline, but everyone aboard escaped, including her owner, Frank Sinatra. Because of her notoriety, she was rebuilt, increasing her cabin space and design, and also kept off and on at the Balboa Bay Club with the new name of Music Man.

In the future I will discuss similar aged and/or styled boats berthed in Newport Harbor, including Wild Goose, Coaster and others.

Sea Ya,

Skipper Steve

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