By Ron Matz

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—It’s been a part of Baltimore for more than a quarter of a century. The Lady Maryland is a living classroom, providing hands-on educational programming for thousands of students.

Ron Matz reports this famous schooner has been in drydock for several months but is now set to sail once again.

Under a cover in Fells Point, the crew works to restore the Lady Maryland. For four months the boat has undergone extensive repairs.

“We built this giant cover over the boat to work during the winter,” said Peter Bolster, Living Classrooms fleet captain. “We replaced the stem at the bow of the boat. We also replaced the fasteners which hold the planks onto the side of the boat. About 4,200 of the fasteners had to be pulled, re-drilled and then replaced with new fasteners.The boat comes out every year for a week or two, but we’ve never had her out for four months, so it’s been a great opportunity to catch up on some other big projects.”

They’ve pulled more than 4,000 galvanized boat nails.

“It’s been a really challenging and comprehensive project,” Bolster explained. “We began four months ago at the end of our 2011 sailing season.We hauled the boat out in the middle of November. It was the end of the 26th year of sailing for the boat so she was due for an extended re-fit.”

“This has been an exciting process,” said Capt Michael Fiorentino, Lady Maryland. “It’s the largest re-fit the Lady Maryland has ever gone through. It’s been a lot of work and a bit of stress at times, but mostly really exciting having a schooner out here in Fells Point, historically this is where a lot of schooners were built throughout the history of the bay and the history of Baltimore. It hasn’t happened in over 100 years, so that history aspect has been really exciting.”

Since 1985 the schooner has provided a hands-on education for more than 250,000 students.

“The Lady Maryland was the first project for the Living Classrooms Foundation,” Bolster said. “Kids were involved in the construction. She was built on the shores of the Inner Harbor in 1985 and 1986. She’s been sailing since the fall of 1986. Since that time we’ve sailed with over 200,000 students up and down the eastern seaboard to all five Great Lakes. When the students are on board either for a short trip or a long trip, they’re working right alongside the crew. Everything is hands-on.There’s no buttons to push. It all happens by fierce determination and teamwork. It’s pretty exciting stuff.”

The repairs will cost $180,000. A fundraiser is set for Monday night at the Waterfront Kitchen.

“We have a big fundraiser Monday night. It’s great to see how many people have come out to support the boat. The boat has been working for the community for 25 years, and it’s great to see how much of that energy has come back to the boat,” Fiorentino said.

If all goes as planned, the Lady Maryland will be back in the water next Tuesday.

“We’re looking to re-launch the boat,” Bolster said.”It will be a little nerve-wracking. My guess it’s going to go like clockwork. It’s been a long deal. It’s very exciting. I’m thrilled the work we are doing will give another generation or multiple generations of kids the same chance to get out on the water on the Lady Maryland. If we’ve done our job right we should be able to sail for another 30 plus years and carry another quarter of a million kids, and that’s what its all about.”

For more information about Monday night’s Lady Maryland fundraiser at Waterfront Kitchen just click here.

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