The SS John Brown waits for us to board for a twilight cruise around the harbor on a living piece of history that takes my breath away.
The middle of September found me in Baltimore once more for the Ninth Maritime Heritage Conference. I was there to do a presentation on Disaster Planning, and what happened here in St. Augustine during the hurricane season of 2004. The presentation was well received by the lighthouse group, but as with most conferences I got more than I gave. The lighthouse group was well represented with folks from around the country, but I found myself drawn to some other presentations touching on things near and dear to my heart. Perhaps it was the welcome cruise aboard the 1944 Liberty Ship John Brown that caught my attention the first night, but for the rest of the conference I was looking away from light stations and toward the sea.

When you think of the thousands of individuals who traveled across the seas aboard vessels like this one, on a mission to save the world, it is a bit humbling to say the least. I was taken back to my childhood when I would sit and listen to stories from my father and uncle who served in WWII. While they were both Army Air Corps guys, the stories of the sea always caught my attention, especially when so many valliant lads slipped under the waves and never made it home. Everyone aboard was impressed with the preservation efforts of the group now working dilligently to keep her stories alive for future generations.
Chuck Meide of LAMP and Ken Smith, President of the Florida Lighthouse Association, aboard the John Brown
We return to the inner harbor at sundown
Watching as the John Brown makes preparations to leave after the cruise. This shot could be right out of a John Wayne movie.
The conference continued with presentations on the challenges of preserving off-shore lighthouses, a lunch talk by author Clive Cussler and his maritime preservation efforts, followed by an afternoon session on fund raising strategies in the real world. I also heard about the restoration efforts on the Charles W. Morgan up at Mystic Seaport, the efforts of a group in Maryland to find and recreate the Andrew Doria, and from British engineer Gordon Breeze on the damage wind vibrations in the masts has done to the hull of the HMS Victory in Portsmouth, England. I had met Mr. Breeze during a Marine Architect’s tour on the restoration of the Constellation the previous evening.
We board the Constellation while the Eagle sits at dock beside her.
Wind in the rigging of Constellation
Co-worker and Executive Director of LAMP, our marine archaeology group at the lighthouse, Chuck Meide, visits with other archaeologists aboard Constellation.

That’s me next to a civil war era gun aboard Constellation.
The final session that stood out was one that I just happened into. It caught my eye in the program with the words “Net Sheds.” We have been working dilligently in St. Augustine to document the history of our shrimping industry before it disappears, It seems that on the other side of the continent, in Washington State, there is a group trying to preserve the vanishing fishing industry there as well. Shelly Leavens, Collections Manager for the Drachen Foundation, and Mike Vlahovich, Founding Director of the Coastal Heritage Alliance are working very hard to save the net sheds of Gig Harbor. It was nice to know that we are not the only ones engaged in the fight to preserve this very important piece of our nation’s history, before it is gone altogether. If things don’t improve soon, the phrase “eat more fish” could be wishful thinking. A vast portion of what we buy in stores is shipped in from other parts of the world, so buy fresh when ever you can.
Camden yards
The conference wrapped up after my presentation on Friday and I was scheduled to fly home the next day. I decided to catch a ball game at Camden Yards where the Yankees would beat the Orioles in the ninth inning. It was disappointing for the home team but there wasn’t a better place to be on a beautiful fall evening in the city. It was a great conference and, once again, Baltimore had welcomed me with open arms. I found it hard to say goodbye to this place that fully deserves its nickname, “Charm City.”