19th-century ship ‘Pride of Baltimore II’ open for tours in Old Town Alexandria

The Pride of Baltimore II will be open for tours all weekend while its docked in Old Town Alexandria. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)
The 19th-century tall ship typically sails using its traditional methods, though it’s equipped with a motor in case it needs some help. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)
The ropes seen throughout the vessel are used to operate the ship. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)
The Pride of Baltimore II will be open for tours all weekend while its docked in Old Town Alexandria. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)
The Pride of Baltimore II will be open for tours all weekend while its docked in Old Town Alexandria. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)

Visitors to Old Town Alexandria this weekend can climb aboard a modern reproduction of the early 19th-century tall ship, the Pride of Baltimore II.

Free deck tours are offered through Sunday evening for the vessel that’s become the figurehead of the Star Spangled Banner Trail. The stop in Alexandria is in partnership with the National Park Service.

When you first come aboard, what you might notice is the unbelievable amount of rope that the ship uses on its deck. 

“It’s just the amount of ropes and equipment you see everywhere,” said Paul Rose, an avid boater who was visiting from Florida. 

According to Shevawn Innes, the ship’s first mate, “There’s about three miles of line on the ship.”

And every one of those ropes has a name that the crew has to memorize. 

Beyond just facts about the modern ship, the crew is readily available to give you a history of square top sail schooners in the Chesapeake area as well as their vital role during the War of 1812. 

“See the boat and chat with the crew and learn a little bit about the history of the boats that helped build our country,” Innes told WTOP. 

The Pride of Baltimore is modeled after an 1812 Baltimore clipper, which became renowned as privateer (legal pirate) vessels during the war. 

“They were pretty successful at capturing those cargo vessels — Baltimore privateers, specifically — because of their speed and maneuverability, which was a product of Chesapeake Bay watercraft design,” said Capt. Jeff Crosby. 

Not only will you learn and live the schooners 19th century history, you can ask any one of the 12-person crew for sea stories. 

The vessel has traveled across the Pacific and Atlantic to 42 countries, even making stops in China and Russia. 

First Mate Innes told WTOP her favorite voyage on the schooner was through the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

“With all the mountains and having a pod of beluga whales swim by, and just the glowing white radiance of them in the dark water was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen,” said Innes. 

While the Pride of Baltimore does have modern engines, around 80% of travel is done through old-fashioned sailing, and requires a crew with expertise in the watercraft. 

“It’s really incredible to move this amount of boat just with the wind. And she’s such a fast and able ship. She’s an absolute delight to sail, just my my favorite thing,” said Innes, as she was sitting on the bow of the ship. 

“It’s amazing. And how nicely it’s renovated. It’s amazing that it actually floats and sails,” said Joann Ackerman who hopped aboard for a visit. 

Free deck tours are available Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

The schooner will then voyage to Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to join the Sultana Downrigging Festival between Oct. 28 and Oct. 30.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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