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Lover of tall ships finds a job on one

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune The tall ship Pride of Baltimore II sits dockside at Loons Foot Landing in Superior, Wis. Thousands are expected to turn out to see nine of the tall ships enter the Duluth, Minn., and Superior harbor Thursday as part of the Tall Ships Festival.

DULUTH (AP) -- Like thousands of other people, Jeff Crosby was impressed by the tall ships that visited town two years ago.

Crosby, however, did something that few people who see tall ships do. He applied for a job aboard one.

"It was unfortunate we didn't have a position for him in Duluth. He would have come aboard then with his sea bag," said Jamie Trost, captain of the Pride of Baltimore II.

Crosby, a native of Duluth, was able to join the Pride II a month later in Cleveland.

"He hasn't left since," Trost said. "He's been a tremendous asset to us."

The position of ship's carpenter and deckhand came easily to Crosby, 23, who first sailed at age 4 with his father on a small sailboat on Leech Lake.

The experience would have turned some people off from sailing, as the boat capsized.

"They were all laughing and bobbing around," his mother, Lisa Crosby, said. "That was his first sailing experience."

But hardly his last. On family sailing vacations to the Apostle Islands Jeff spent hours in a boatswain's chair, swinging high above deck and reading. In high school he helped his father repair boats and became active in sail racing. His family was letting him take a 25-foot-long sailboat out into Superior by himself.

"He has a knack for this kind of thing," Lisa Crosby said.

After graduating from Central High School in 2005, he went to Maine, earned a degree in boat building and continued to repair and sail boats. In 2007, he returned to Duluth to work in his father's boat repair shop.

A year later the Pride II sailed into Duluth and into his life.

"Just seeing the look of her, I could tell she was a fast-working ship, and I've been proven right," Crosby said, recalling a run from Nova Scotia to Boston, the ship heeling 15 degrees from the wind and making 13.8 knots.

"For a 180-ton schooner, that's an absolutely phenomenal feeling," he said. "She has really good lines. She was well-built, and it shows."

Sailing, however, was only one thing that attracted Crosby to tall ships. It takes a lot of work to keep a wooden ship in top form.

"I thought I could contribute," he said.

And he has, according to the ship's officers.

"You get a lot of people who come to sail," first officer Alan Morse said. ""Having someone with his training as a carpenter is really useful. It's good to have him on board."

Trost got to know Crosby well in the spring of 2009 when the two of them, dressed in scuba gear, pulled a 38-inch, 350-pound propeller off the ship, took it from Virginia to Maine to be repaired, brought it back and replaced it in four days.

"We spent more time under water than asleep in those four days," Trost said. And through it all, Crosby remained professional and pleasant.

"I can't think of many people I would want to do that job with. He has the right attitude."

Aboard the Pride II, Crosby shares quarters with six others in a small room toward the ship's bow. His days are spent sanding, painting, varnishing, inspecting, repairing and replacing.

"The projects are always interesting," he said. "There's really nothing I don't like."

Including the demands of sailing a ship safely.

"You have to do everything right or there could be severe consequences," he said.

He also enjoys the tourists who visit the ship at each stop.

"You get a lot of the same questions, but at the same time there's a lot of people interested in the history, which is cool stuff and cool to keep alive," he said.

"It's been absolutely fantastic," Crosby said of working and sailing on the Pride II. "It's the best job I've ever had. I don't mind waking up in the morning and going to work."

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