Cruising to Baltimore is an exhilarating experience, no doubt . . . big buildings, grand marinas, an endless list of sights to see, restaurants to try and memories to be made. And no matter how many times you visit, you’re sure to encounter something different each time. We here at Chesapeake Bay Magazine central have made any number of trips to the Big City in our boating lives and anticipate making many more before we hang up our anchors. In the meantime, we’ve decided to share a few of our memories. We divvied up the city’s waterfront into three parts: Editor T. F. Sayles recalls his first awkward boat trip to the Inner Harbor many years ago; senior editor Jody Schroath raves about her recent discovery of the Federal Hill environs; and managing editor Ann Levelle relishes the memory of eating her way through Canton/Fells Point. We hope you enjoy your visits as much as we have!
Tim’s First Time
I will forever consider Baltimore’s Inner Harbor the place of my true indoctrination as a boater. Nothing momentous happened in the Inner Harbor itself, but it was the object of my first largely successful “long-distance” solo trip on Ink Pot, the 22-foot Cruisers Inc., that I owned in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
It was not even 35 nautical miles from my home dock on Reed Creek, off the Chester River, to the Inner Harbor. But at the time, having done nothing more ambitious than go around the corner to Corsica River, a trip of that magnitude seemed downright Odyssean. And it didn’t help that Ink Pot was a moody old girl, get-up-and-go-wise. Sometimes she’d jump up on plane quickly and zip along easily at 25 knots. And sometimes not. Sometimes, for reasons I never fully understood, she’d just refuse to get up out of the water. The best I could hope for was to plow along in displacement mode at a maddening 7 or 8 knots. My theory is that my small-but-heavy boat was on the brink of being underpowered, and that she could get up and go only in ideal conditions.
So that meant the trip to the Inner Harbor might take an hour and a half . . . or it might take five hours. My friend Lee, who worked in downtown Baltimore and whom I’d arranged to meet for lunch at Harborplace, had a hard time understanding why “sometime between 8:30 and noon” was as precise as I could be about my arrival time. “Are you coming for lunch or to fix my cable TV?” she asked. I explained, and since my worst-case scenario matched her lunch hour, we agreed to meet at the Harborplace amphitheater at noon.
It started out bad that morning. I managed to get under way a little after 7—a miraculous feat for me, being violently allergic to early morning. But the Chester was choppy, Ink Pot was slow as molasses, and I thought I’d never get to the big bend at Kent Narrows. But I did get there, and somewhere in that vicinity the seas began to calm down—quite the opposite of what I’d expected. The mouth of the Chester can be quite the washing machine. Suddenly
Ink Pot found her mojo and jumped up on plane, and before long I was zipping past Love Point and into the open Bay.
At around ten o’clock, having first dawdled in the harbor for a bit of helm’s-eye-view sightseeing, I idled up to the bulkhead at the west edge of the harbor, not far from the U.S.S. Constellation. There a very pretty young dockhand welcomed me to Baltimore, told me it would be five dollars to dock there for the day, and helped me tie up. I think she worked for the harbormaster. Either that or she was running a very clever scam that required only a clipboard, a polo shirt with a city logo and a dazzling smile. But she helped me tie up and she complimented Ink Pot, so it was five dollars well spent in any case.
After a bit of onshore sightseeing, including a quick tour of the Constellation, I met Lee at the amphitheater and we went off to find a sandwich shop. Then, with our sandwiches, potato chips and matching bottles of Orangina, we enjoyed lunch in Ink Pot’s cozy cockpit. Lee congratulated me for avoiding the five-hour worst-case scenario. And, silently, I congratulated myself on becoming a real, bona fide, “long-distance” cruiser.
Your choices for staying in and around the Inner Harbor are plenty, and all of them offer tremendous views, attractions and restaurants all within walking distance and, with the exception of Baltimore’s public docks, amenities aplenty. Starting with the first marina you’d come to after passing Fells Point, you’ll find Harbor East Marina (410-625-1700; www.harboreastmarina.com). From here you can make your way to Fells Point, Little Italy or the Inner Harbor. If you’d like to stay in the Inner Harbor itself, you can tie up at Baltimore’s public bulkheads (410-396-3174; www.boatinginbaltimore.com) or Baltimore Marine Center Inner Harbor Marina (410-837-5339; www.baltimoremarinecenter.com). If you’d like to follow in Jody’s footsteps and enjoy the relative quiet of the south side of the harbor, visit Baltimore Marine Center Harborview (410-752-1122; www.baltimoremarinecenter.com) and begin your trekking around the Federal Hill area. Perhaps you’ll run across the delicious rib joint that Jody found once, but has eluded her since.
As for restaurants, of course you’ll find them around every corner in both the Inner Harbor and Federal Hill areas. And to get from one side of the harbor to the other, or out to Fells Point or Canton, the Water Taxi (410-563-3900; baltimorewatertaxi.com) makes 17 stops around Baltimore, including Fort McHenry.