By Gabrielle Wathen
3:56 PM EDT, July 1, 2014
As Pride of Baltimore II motors out of the Inner Harbor to set sail near Fort McHenry, Captain Jamie Trost jokes, “If we abandon ship today, you can keep your Pride of Baltimore II lifejacket as a souvenir.” Passengers sitting on the shining hardwood deck laugh. The smell of hot wood, suntan lotion, and mucky water lingers in the air as Trost talks about the role of tall ships in Baltimore during the War of 1812.
The Pride of Baltimore II has 12 crew members and two rotating captains, Jan Miles and Trost. The ship was commissioned in 1988 to carry on the legacy of her predecessor, Pride of Baltimore, which was launched in 1977 and was tragically lost at sea in 1986 off the coast of Puerto Rico with her captain and three crew members. Though the ship was owned by the city, it was managed by the nonprofit Pride of Baltimore Inc. According to Trost, “Pride Inc. and the city both said, ‘Well this should be the end and we should do right by all the people who were affected by this’” when the first ship was lost. Then, as Trost has it, the citizenry stepped up and said “‘No.You have to rebuild our pride!'” Both ships were built in the Inner Harbor and meant to replicate the best parts of the topsail schooners called Baltimore Clippers, which played a valuable role in helping America win the war of 1812.
Growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania, Trost always wanted to sail.
“I used to want to go sailing with my uncles who raced a sailboat together,” Trost says. “It’s just something that you did in Erie. Sort of like the Chesapeake Bay, you don’t get away. Most people have some exposure to being on the water and I liked it a lot, I wanted to do more of it. I think my first sailing experience was my dad and I in a Sunfish when I was like 5 years old.”
Trost was a 13-year-old boy the first time he stepped foot on Pride II for a deck tour with his parents, when the ship docked in his hometown, which is also rich in War of 1812 history. He remembers that his mother was scandalized that there was an engine room on a sail boat.
In high school and college, Trost raced sailboats. He graduated in 1996 from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he majored in English with a concentration in creative writing. After graduation, he worked for Mother Jones magazine, where he did some political reporting. In the summer of 1997, he got hired as a deck hand on a schooner named Appledore IV. At the end of the summer, Trost traveled to Japan to teach English and stayed there for almost two years.
When he returned to the U.S., he bounced around and worked on several different schooners. And, though he makes his living on the water now, it still wasn’t something he really thought was possible. “I thought, ‘Oh yeah, somebody must do it, but I can’t imagine how I could do that,’” Trost says. But it’s not all smooth sailing.
“No one’s getting rich quick doing this, you’re sort of taking your retirement in installments,” he says, “but if you really enjoy what you’re doing and you feel like it’s worthwhile, you keep at it.”
On one job in northern Michigan he met Kathleen Moore and they eventually got married. For much of their relationship, she was a Ph.D. student at Penn State and she just defended her dissertation. During that time, Trost has worked on at least 12 different ships—making distance an unavoidable difficulty.
“I was just sort of everywhere, my home base was wherever her home base was,” Trost says. “These days I’m usually only gone for a maximum of six to eight weeks, but in 2010 I think we spent a total of 64 days in the same place at the same time. I’m never going to repeat that again.”
Trost and Moore moved to Baltimore in 2011, and last year, she briefly worked as a chef on Pride II alongside Trost. They live northeast of Patterson Park in an apartment building that gives them a view of the harbor. On any given day when Trost is sailing, Moore can look out their window and see the powerful sails of Pride II fighting the wind on the water.
That view is especially frequent this year. While the crew of the Pride II normally spends its summers traveling to tall-ship festivals in ports all over America, the ship will stay in Baltimore, offering guided day and weekend deck tours, this year to commemorate the Battle of Baltimore in 1814.
“Because so many events that happen in the War of 1812 during 1814 happen in the Chesapeake, we’re staying local to be involved in as many of those commemorations as we can and also to make sure that those folks who have been supporting us at home all these years get a chance to see the ship in the summertime in all her glory,” he says as the wind whips through the sails.
“We have shareholders or members that help fund our organization and we can’t give them silk or gold or plundered British ships,” Trost adds, the city glimmering in the distance. "But what we can give them is the fact that we’re educating a new generation about the role Baltimore played in our national history.”
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