Monday, August 18, 2014

Baltimore ... Finally!

One of the unusual things that we experienced during our time in Chesapeake Bay is what I call the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Effect. That is, there can be a distinct difference between the conditions above the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (on the Baltimore side), and below the bridge (on the Annapolis side). This came into play twice last summer when we made two attempts to go to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor from Annapolis, and got turned back both times when we crossed under the bridge. Both times the conditions changed from near calm on the south side of the bridge to turbulent and impassable on the north side of the bridge. And I’m not the only person that has noticed this. We have talked to other boaters that experienced the same thing.
After our wonderful visit to Philadelphia, the only major attraction left for us to visit on the bay (and I’m including Philadelphia) was Baltimore, and we were determined to make it there. I say ‘we’ when in fact it was ‘me’. I’ve had a bug up my stern ever since last summer about getting there. I was not going to give in to that SOB bridge and it’s dastardly sea condition machinations. My solution to the problem was elegant in its simplicity. If we couldn't get to Baltimore from the south – from Annapolis – we’d attack it from the north. Brilliant!
After spending a couple of days in Fredericktown on the Sassafras River, we steamed down to the Patapsco River channel and up into Baltimore. Our goal was to get to the Inner Harbor, the upper most end of the river, to one of the long finger docks operated by the city. The pictures we had seen of the area made the harbor look bright and inviting, with the downtown skyline right down on the water, and lots of attractions to explore and experience.
Baltimore delivered on all of that.

The city docks themselves were long and solid, and we were able to bite off a big chunk of the center dock (there are three docks that jut out into the harbor) so that our exit was simple. As we've said about some of the marinas we felt particularly comfortable about getting in and out of, it was a Why Knot friendly place. No problems.
Now, if there had been any apprehensions on going to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, it would be similar to those we heard and read about from other boaters. You and your boat are right in the middle of downtown and there is nothing that would prevent hooligans from making trouble. In the very near past, there had been a lot of difficulties with criminal elements lurking around the docks and the boats. But apparently, Baltimore took this problem very seriously, and with ever present police patrols, combined with a very robust downtown redevelopment push, we had no problems at all. The Inner Harbor is very much a family-friendly area with lots of attractions. It’s all very clean and vibrant.
The attractions were many and varied. There was the National Aquarium, notable ships moored along the side that we visited, the B & O Railroad Museum, several great art museums; all with a very convenient FREE bus service connecting them all. (Boaters take note: there are several grocery stores along the free bus lines, so provisioning is possible. We did.)

The highlight of the trip was that we made some new friends there. On Friday morning, a new boat pulled into the next of the three docks and tied up for the night. It was named The Good Life, a very nice fifty-two foot Carver, crewed by Bill and Michelle. Boater friends of theirs, Bill and Nancy, were on board too.
Now, the spaces between the docks are very wide, so there is room for another boat to pull past your boat and tie up, if you are tied up on the outside end like they were. While I washed Why Knot late Saturday afternoon, I saw that a Mainship trawler with an obviously inexperienced crew on board, was doing just that past The Good Life, and they were having a lot of trouble. I ran over to their dock to help with lines, or lend whatever assistance I could. Bill, Bill, and I caught lines and instructed the Mainship’s crew on how to maneuver their boat successfully onto the dock.
After we had them tied up, the two Bills, Michelle, and Nancy gathered around me on the dock. They had seen out gold AGLCA burgee and asked me about the journey. We stood on the dock for something like twenty minutes until I excused myself to go back to Why Knot, finish my chores, and go in and take a shower. While I was in the shower, there was a knock on our door. Lisa answered it and it was Bill and Michelle. They invited us to come over to their boat for dinner, which we gladly accepted.
We had a wonderful evening on board The Good Life. They all wanted to know as many of the details about the Great Loop as we could remember. And they were interested in what we had experienced in the cruising seasons since. We also learned a lot about them, and what they had done. It was great fun. They’re lovely people. As we've always said, the thing that makes boating such a great way to live is the wonderful people we meet, like Bill and Michelle, and Bill and Nancy.
Our stay in Baltimore was fantastic! But, there was one incident.
We had heard about this happening to others that were docked at the city docks, but, frankly, I thought it was the stuff of boating urban legends. The city docks are open to the public and lots of people walked down to the ends to take pictures of the city and seascape (it is a beautiful vista) and it’s packed, especially in the evenings. People also like to have their pictures taken in front of the boats tied up on the dock, including ours.
The urban legend had it that some people, and for some reason most of these people are said to be Asian tourists, apparently don’t care much about personal boundaries, and have climbed up onto the boats to have their picture taken on deck. Again, I thought it was a legend. I was wrong.
On the Friday evening that we were there, Lisa and I were sitting in our galley just hanging out. Amazingly, we heard the distinct, unmistakable sound of hard soled shoes walking on our deck. We looked at each other in astonishment and said together, “There’s somebody on our boat!” I quickly dashed through the doorway and there was an elderly Asian woman standing on our foredeck getting her picture taken by her husband who was standing on the dock.
My reaction was immediate. I yelled, “GET THE HELL OFF OUR BOAT!” She jumped down through the gangway and looked at me like I had a third arm growing out of my forehead. Then the two of them walked off of the dock. I was flabbergasted!
There was a very nice man and his daughter that approached me and said that they were native Baltimorians and apologized on behalf of the city. He was also a boater himself and explained that what had happened to us did indeed happen all of the time there. He also said that even though he didn't want to stereotype, it always seemed to involve Asian tourists.
We’re proud of Why Knot. She’s a good looking boat and has always been approachable. We wouldn't have minded it if they had knocked on our door and asked if they could have come on board to take a picture. I would have said yes. But to just climb on deck and walk to the bow takes a helluva lot of gall. The lady certainly wasn't dangerous, or the least bit hostile or destructive, but there are boundaries in life, and some people just don’t give a crap, I guess. Bottom line, if you come to the city docks in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, be prepared. It’s not an urban legend. There are people that will climb on board your boat to get their picture taken. It happened to us.

Anyway, back to Baltimore. It is a great destination! It’s beautiful, convenient, fun, bright, and well worth the effort. Baltimore calls itself the Charm City. It’s a well deserved moniker. 

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