sail into history
American merchant ships sunk in Baltimore Harbor, British naval ships pounding Fort McHenry with nearly 2,000 Congreve rockets and mortar shells and 5,000 enemy troops marching towards Baltimore. 1812 was decidedly not a good year for a walk around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Things have changed in 200 years. These days, the Inner Harbor holds endless promise for exquisite dining, vibrant nightlife and leisurely strolls. And while the ships that took part in the bombardment of Baltimore are long gone – some sold and broken apart; others lost to time at the bottom of the Ocean – you can still find one of the world’s most impressive collections of historic military ships in the harbor, all within walking distance of each other.
Launched in 1854, the USS Constellation was the last – and largest – all-sail ship built by the US Navy. The triple-masted sloop-of-war endures as the last Civil War-era vessel afloat. The Taney, a Coast Guard cutter, remains the only ship afloat that fought back in the attack on Pearl Harbor, while the submarine USS Torsk sank the last two Japanese warships in World War II.
These three, plus the lightship Chesapeake, may be found at Historic Ships in Baltimore. Each of the ships is open for tours, and special events such as the firing of Parrott Guns take place regularly. Also present: the USNS Comfort and the SS Wright, two US Navy ships on active/reserve duty.
If these ships put you in a sailing frame of mind, options abound. There are kayaks, schooners and yachts for rent. You can savor a dinner cruise, embark on a swashbuckling voyage aboard a pirate clipper ship or roll across the harbor on a paddle steamer. Why not “cycle” across the water in a fearsome-looking, foot-powered Chessie paddleboat? Shaped to look like the mythical sea dragon rumored to live in Chesapeake Bay – and in vivid green or purple hues it adds a burst of colour to a harbor sprinkled with white ships.
Whether you explore the harbour by land or by sea, ask the Concierge about getting a Baltimore Harbor Pass for you. You’ll enjoy discounts to harborside attractions such as the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center, a one-day pass for the Baltimore Water Taxi and free entry to either the American Visionary Art Museum or Port Discovery Children’s Museum.