Captain Daniel Parrott, captain of the 170-foot topsail schooner Pride of Baltimore II, is a professional mariner of 18 years' experience in tall ships. While earning a master's degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island in 1998, Parrott undertook an in-depth, critical reexamination of the official inquiries and other records pertaining to the losses of the 316-foot bark Pamir in 1957; the 117-foot brigantine Albatross in 1961; the 117-foot bark Marques in 1984; the 137-foot schooner Pride of Baltimore in 1986; and the 125-foot brig Maria Asumpta in 1995. Each of these casualties is ingrained in the consciousness of serious sailors. Each of them involved loss of life - 112 lost crew in total. Each is a frequent topic of sailors' talk and speculations. Parrott's 320-page master's thesis aimed primarily to trace the impact of these tragedies on the development of sail training around the world. In the end he did more, providing sobering insights into the circumstances surrounding these losses. Tall Ships Down is an outgrowth of Parrott's thesis research, framing his inquiries and conclusions for a broad seagoing audience. This book will be required reading for all those involved in the growing sail-training effort around the world, of course, but it is also rich in interest and significance for all sailors and mariners. It outlines the history of each ship from its building, showing how mission changes, structural changes, rig modifications, and ownership changes can erode a ship's seaworthiness over time. Then we relive the final voyages, dissecting the circumstances of loss from forensic evidence and the memories of survivors. Carefully examined, the evidence shows casualties that have been considered acts of god probably resulted from an ignorance or neglect of age-old practices of seamanship. Cargo loose in holds, hatches unsecured at sea, freeing ports timbered shut, rig and stability changes carried out with insufficient regard to their possible impacts on seaworthiness - these and other factors emerge from Parrott's in-depth analysis as contributing factors. In the book's concluding section - in what amounts to an unforgettable seminar on seamanship--Parrott explores the impacts of ship stability, structural integrity, weather, human error, and standards of risk on safety at sea. In the end, Tall Ships Down is about the lore of the sea and the wisdom of seamanship, and in that regard its lessons are applicable to small sailboats as well as tall ships. Students of the sea will read this book for its historical significance. Armchair sailors will be drawn to the vivid, tragic stories. Professional mariners will read it for its seagoing wisdom. And all sailors will draw from it a deeper understanding of what it takes to be safe at sea.
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There is something endlessly fascinating about shipwrecks, as this book so admirably demonstrates. Parrott writes with ease and authority, carefully blending both historical and technical data. - Baltimore Sun; Gripping reading. Not much detective fiction holds a reader's attention so well. A must-read for anyone with any interest in large sailing ships in general, and square-riggers in particular. - WoodenBoat; If you might like to read a closely reasoned seaman's appraisal of not one, but several maritime disasters, you will be richly rewarded by Tall Ships Down. - SAILFrom the Back Cover:
Five stories of tragic loss for anyone who loves or fears the sea
"If you are at all interested in the literature of the sea, you will find here an extraordinary investigation of some of sailing's most tragic accidents, with many sobering lessons. If you are a professional sailor, or aspire to be, Tall Ships Down is required reading. Period." Captain G. Andy Chase, Maine Maritime Academy, author of Auxiliary Sail Vessel Operations
"An impassioned sailor and scholar unafraid of the hard questions, Dan Parrott focuses his seaman's eye on the challenges and risks of voyaging under sail aboard traditional vessels and brings meaning, understanding, and even hope from these tragic losses. Every sailor, professional or amateur, will learn much from these stories." Jon Wilson, editor in chief, WoodenBoat
"Captain Parrot examines five of the most infamous tragedies in modern tall-ship history. Weather, stability, crew actions, blame the debates and questions may now cease. Parrott's case histories are the ultimate reference work." Jim Carrier, author of The Ship and the Storm
Technologically outmoded and once nearly swept from the seas, tall ships have experienced a fifty-year renaissance as sail training and passenger vessels, and we are the richer for it. After all, what sight has more power to stir the soul than a tall ship under sail with its acres of canvas and miles of rigging? But that resurgence has had a tragic side, and professional mariner and maritime scholar Dan Parrott explores it in Tall Ships Down, a groundbreaking reconstruction of the losses of the 316-foot barque Pamir in 1957; the 117-foot brigantine Albatross in 1961; the 117-foot barque Marques in 1984; the 137-foot Pride of Baltimore in 1986; and the 125-foot brig Maria Asumpta in 1995. Together, these disasters claimed 112 lives.
The heartbreaking stories of these majestic ships have been subject to mystery and distortion. In some instances even the survivors could not explain what went wrong, and in others the official inquiries failed to articulate the most critical lessons hidden in the sudden, terrible catastrophes until now.
Parrott traces the history of each ship from its building and early career through subsequent owners' modifications. His vivid re-creations of each final voyage dissect the circumstances of loss from forensic evidence, expert testimony, survivors' memories, and his own considerable experience. Carefully examined, the evidence shows that, contrary to some official findings, ignorance of and disregard for age-old practices of seamanship were at least as responsible for the tragedies as "acts of God." In some instances the seeds of a ship's ultimate undoing were planted years before, as ill-considered structural changes, rig modifications, and "mission creep" eroded its stability and seaworthiness. Cargo loose in holds, hatches unsecured at sea, freeing ports timbered shut, failure to preserve proper sea room these and other factors emerge from Parrott's analysis as contributing factors.
Rich with history, lore, and survivors' incredible firsthand accounts, Tall Ships Down is more than a great read. It's an unforgettable seminar grounded in the sea's most fundamental truth that small and seemingly insignificant lapses can have fatal consequences.
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