One of a number of married couples aboard the Pride of Baltimore II during Friday's Parade of Sail, Heidi and Brian Daugherty never imagined the reception that awaited them in Canal Park.
It hit them as the tall ship wended along a dense and adoring harbor crowd. Faces and camera phone lenses trained on the ship. From the deck of the Pride, the city was on display.
"I'm a Duluthian," Brian Daugherty said. "To see Duluth like this, it's just hard not to get a lump in your throat."
Daugherty waved as the Pride slipped past a balcony brimming with people at Grandma's Saloon & Grill, where he's company president. Enjoying it, he waved some more.
The pristine ship was operated by a mostly twentysomething and expert crew clad in navy shorts and maroon tops. Their trim waists were wrapped in leather and rope belts with sharp knives sheathed.
The Pride of Baltimore, Md., requires its crew to come with previous experience, and it showed. There were no masquerading amateurs like on some other tall ships. What looked like chaos from land became a sensible array of ropes and pulleys under the right hands.
"It's one or two miles of rope," said second mate Becca Rusk, 27, of Michigan. "I've never added it all up."
There were times aboard the ship when surprising vacuums of silence would yield bursts of sound — the flap of a not-quite-taut sail, 44-year-old captain Jordan Smith's bare feet brushing the floorboards, and the mouse-like squeaks of progress brought by the crew's sail-raising tugs.
"Sailing is just such a tough life," said Kit Cusick, 41, of Stillwater, Minn., who made the trip to Duluth to reunite with the Pride.
Cusick sailed for four months aboard the ship in 2013, working as the cook — the only job that doesn't require previous experience. He said he became known for his Taco Tuesdays offered on any day of the week, calling it a "crew favorite."
"They say of the Pride that she's gets under your skin and she stays there — and I can tell you that's true," said Cusick, who volunteered to cook through the weekend to give the regular cook some time away. "There's not a day gone by since 2013 I haven't thought about her."
Cusick's right forearm features a tattoo of the ship's classic fisherman's anchor. First mate Chad Lossing, 24, of Michigan, has a tattoo of a shackle on his tricep.
"You can see them all over the place," he said of the fasteners that serve a ship the way carabiners serve a climber.
Sometimes Lossing said he forgets the tattoo is there until he sees it in a picture and is reminded. But he'll never forget where he got it: below deck in the tight living quarters afforded the crew of the Pride — the same place Cusick and others got theirs.
Whether cutting U-turns among the constellations of spectator craft out in the lake or sailing with puffed canvasses to the adoration of hordes of people, the Pride seemed to leave an indelible image wherever she went.
When her mast snuck under the Aerial Lift Bridge, the crowd gasped audibly and followed it by clapping wildly.
"There's nothing else like her," Cusick said. "If all you want to do is sail and not worry about what you do on land, you get your room and meals paid for. That leaves you some money for beer and a cell phone; you're living the dream."
Heidi Daugherty agreed. Sailing with her husband on what was her birthday, she was all smiles.
"You really can't top this as a birthday present," she said. In the background the captain hollered "Table the main."
The crew parroted it back and the main sail slid down the heavy mast like a curtain — setting the stage for the weekend.