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Tall ship adds touch of majesty to Fourth festivities; Pride of Baltimore II traveling Great Lakes to promote Bicentennial of War of 1812

A majestic tall ship sailed into Buffalo's waterfront Wednesday, escorted by a flotilla that included the Spirit of Buffalo and the Edward M. Cotter, and greeted by a cannon fire salute.

The Pride of Baltimore II is traveling throughout the Great Lakes region this summer to promote next year's Bicentennial of the War of 1812. It will be docked at the Central Wharf through the Fourth of July.

"I think going out on open water 200 years ago on a boat that small in the ocean would take a lot of guts," said Larry Thomas, who came out to see the ship. "And I'm always in awe of how they're rigged. It seems like some very intelligent people were building boats."

The vessel is a reproduction of 1812-era topsail schooners that were used as privateers. It was commissioned in 1988 after its predecessor, the original Pride of Baltimore, sank in a squall off Puerto Rico, killing the captain and three crew members.

It measures 157 feet long, 26 feet wide and 107 feet tall.

The ship has visited more than 200 ports in 40 countries, last visiting Buffalo in 1993.

"It's a pleasure to be in a city that really appreciates its waterfront, appreciates its history and has such a great tie to the events that took place nearly 200 years ago, which established the independence America had fought so hard for in 1776," said Jamie Trost, the ship's captain. The Erie, Pa., native leads a crew of 12.

Trost said there are about 150 tall ships of different types in the U.S. and 2,000 worldwide.

"It is a true honor that [the Pride of Baltimore II] has elected to spend the Fourth of July, Independence Day, here in Buffalo at Canal Side," said Jordan Levy, chairman of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.

The ship's name commemorates the defense of Baltimore during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. After Francis Scott Key saw the fort's bombardment by British Royal Navy ships, he wrote the poem, "Defence of Fort McHenry," which later would become the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Tours aboard the Pride of Baltimore II are available for $5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Monday. Three-hour sails will be offered for $55 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. through Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com