After marking 40 years of sailing the Chesapeake and around the world on behalf of the city of Baltimore and state of Maryland, the nonprofit operator of the tall ship Pride of Baltimore II is urgently seeking new funding from government, the business sector, and the public, the organization’s board of directors announced recently.
The Pride of Baltimore organization is urging the public and the local business community to express support for Pride and make financial contributions to fund Pride’s future operations.
The organization is advocating for renewed state and local funding to allow Pride of Baltimore II to continue to fulfill its important mission as an economic development tool and goodwill ambassador for both the state and city.
“Pride of Baltimore II remains one of the world’s most revered tall ships, delighting crowds wherever she sails,” said Pride of Baltimore, Inc. board chair Captain Eric Nielsen. “We will use 2018 to reassess the ship’s future, working closely with our partners in the public and private sectors to make sure we don’t witness the end to Pride’s wonderful history.”
Instead of taking part in public events, Pride II is undergoing maintenance early in the year as part of a 30-year refit of the vessel, which was launched in 1988. Without significant new funding, Pride II will likely not be able to maintain an active sailing schedule in 2018.
Pride II was owned by the state of Maryland from 1988 to 2008, and now is both owned and operated by Pride of Baltimore, Inc., a nonprofit entity funded through grants, individual gifts, corporate support, and income from festival appearances and other sources.
The state has provided significant funding for Pride of Baltimore over the years, and most recently through a three-year commitment through early 2018. The Pride organization is exploring legislation to allocate state funding for Pride during this year’s General Assembly session.
“Pride of Baltimore II is a treasured symbol of Baltimore and Maryland that is recognized around the world,” said Rick Scott, Pride of Baltimore’s executive director. “We are grateful for the generous financial support we have received from the state of Maryland, the city of Baltimore, and thousands of people and organizations over many years. As we plan for our future and do maintenance on Pride this year, we urge all those who care about her to continue to support our work.”
Over the years, Pride II has been able to generate less than half of its budget in operating revenues, such as appearance fees, souvenir sales, and day sails — requiring the organization to raise a significant amount of money each year.
Around the country, other tall ships have also struggled to maintain the resources to fulfill their missions and maintain themselves. However, unlike many tall ships, Pride of Baltimore II has no outstanding debt. And thanks to ongoing maintenance, the ship is able to sail for many more years.
“The Pride organization has successfully stewarded the city’s tall ship for decades, but we need to hit pause and look carefully at how we move forward,” said Scott. “We will examine the organization’s structure, operations, and financing. It’s important to identify a sustainable strategy for operating Pride and preserving this valuable and iconic civic asset.”
Pride of Baltimore, a topsail schooner that recalled the Baltimore Clippers that helped the U.S. secure independence during the War of 1812, was commissioned in 1977 and sailed for nearly a decade before being lost at sea in 1986.
A successor vessel, Pride of Baltimore II, was launched in 1988 and has logged more than 250,000 miles and visited more than 200 ports in 40 countries. It has generated enormous goodwill and interest in the rich maritime history of Baltimore and Maryland.
In 2017, the organization celebrated the 40th anniversary of Pride in Baltimore, highlighted by popular appearances in three tall ships festivals and two open-ocean races.
Pride II routinely attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year and generates wide media coverage worth tens of millions of dollars in exposure for the ship, the city of Baltimore, and the state of Maryland. With renewed support from the state of Maryland over the past three years, Pride II also was used locally and in other ports to promote economic development in the state.
Pride has also created unique educational opportunities for Marylanders. While every visitor to Pride II learns about the dynamic designs of Chesapeake schooners and the pivotal role of Maryland privateers in the War of 1812, programs specifically tailored for students enhance the experience through hands-on learning. Dockside programs for fourth graders, featuring lessons in simple machines, navigation, and the life of a sailor, have been offered since the 1990s.
Pride outreach programs also take place in classrooms, and educational programming has been presented on the vessel in conjunction with major events such as Light City Baltimore, Star-Spangled Sailabration in 2012, and Star-Spangled Spectacular in 2014.