The Maryland Dove, photo by Laura Hammett

New Ship, New Captain: Maryland Dove Under New Command

After 34 years, the Maryland Dove is receiving a new commander. Angela Laaro will be taking the helm from Captain Will Gates, who has been acting as the reproduction 17th century trading ship’s keeper since 1989.

Gates carried the legacy of Maryland’s settlers through two ships—the first Dove, built in 1978, which was a looser interpretation, and the new Maryland Dove, painstakingly created by shipwrights at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum using specially-sourced wood and techniques studied across the ocean. Like the first Dove, it is homeported in Historic St. Mary’s City, the state’s first capital.

But Gates’ work with historic maritime craft dates back even longer. A New England native, Gates apprenticed as a rigger at Mystic Seaport Museum, and later took on sailing adventures aboard schooners on the East Coast.

“I got hooked on historic ships at Mystic,” he says. “We were teaching history as well as sailing, acting as interpreters.” When Gates started working with Historic St. Mary’s City, he continued to consider himself a connection to a different time.

“Our primary purpose is to act as a dockside floating classroom,” he says. “But our secondary purpose is to carry on a skill preservation program. And this is a life mission. To teach, to preserve the skills. If we don’t build and sail a 17th century ship, no one will know how to do it.”

Capt. Will Gates aboard the Maryland Dove

Gates’ successor is Angela Llaro, who began her time with the museum at the age of 14. Initially acting as a volunteer at the museum’s tobacco plantation exhibit, she moved to the Dove under the mentorship of Captain Gates. Later, she gained experience on historical schooners and windjammers, such as the 72-foot square topsail schooner Spirit of Buffalo and the 49-foot steel-hulled Summer Wind in Baltimore.

“Angela has the right combination of knowledge, experience, and personality,” says Gates, praising his mentee, whom he once taught to tie a bowline. “She’s absolutely the right person to carry on this great legacy.”

The Maryland Dove is a wooden ship based on the original Dove, a 17th century trading ship that sailed to the Maryland colony in 1634, alone with her sister ship, the Ark. Gates is leaving southern Maryland for another historic city, Savannah, Georgia, where he plans on renovating a home with his wife. A change-of-command ceremony will be held on July 13th at 10:30 a.m. at the Historic St. Mary’s City Waterfront, and the public is invited to attend.