Marina Review – Baltimore Finger Piers
This is another marina review on the Why Knot Great Lakes Grand Tour. Using the N D S, A A, P P marina analysis model, I'll fill you in on what my experience was. The views expressed are strictly my own.
Read these two blog entries to get up to speed: https://whyknotgreatlakesgrandtour.blogspot.com/2018/07/trouble-in-baltimore.html and https://whyknotgreatlakesgrandtour.blogspot.com/2018/07/trouble-in-baltimore-upon-further-review.html
Despite the challenge we faced on only our second day in the Inner Harbor, we would not hesitate to go back there again. I think they are taking steps to make things better. Perhaps you might like to make the trek there yourself. This review is about the actual workings of getting there and how to enjoy your time there.
One captain commented that every captain and crew must make a reasonable risk assessment as to where one travels. He was absolutely correct. My risk assessment is that there is an elevated risk of trouble at the Finger Piers at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. But this elevated risk when weighed against the opportunity to visit Baltimore up close and personal is worth it. There are other considerations against going there that may be more meaningful.
NOTE: These docks are known locally as “The Finger Docks” or “The Finger Piers.”
N: Navigability – Easy. Just above the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, head up towards the busy commercial harbor on the well-marked channel of the Patapsco River. There is a split in the channel just in front of Fort McHenry. Go right, not left. Just keep going until you reach the end. That's the Inner Harbor.
D: Dockage – There are three 130 foot fixed piers sticking out from the west seawall, just in front of the two large white excursion boats. As you look at them from the water, the dock furthest to the left has a large old-fashioned looking tour boat tied up to it. The center and right dock are available to tie up to. They are first come, first serve. My advice is to tie up to the left side of the right pier or the right side of the center pier. The left side of the center dock is available too, but we saw sporatic use by tour boats there. There is electricity (iffy) and water. SPECIAL NOTE: This is not a full service marina and does not have pump out itself (nor it's own bathrooms and showers. More about that.) If you need to pump out upon arrival the nearest and easiest marina is Inner Harbor Marina to the left as you enter the Inner Harbor. $5. When you approach the piers to dock, you are on your own. No one is available to help you.
After you arrive and get tied up, call the dockmaster at 410-396-3174. Patricia or someone on the staff will come down, get your registered and take your money. They do take credit cards, but not Discover.
S: Services – None
A: Amenities – No showers of any kind available. No laundry. There are some public bathrooms nearby:
The Baltimore Visitor's Center – 1000 to 1700 hours
Public bathrooms in the building where Bubba Gumps and the Ripley's museum are located.
There is a Starbucks very close at 100 E Pratt St, just off the inner harbor attraction area. Opens at 0530. Buy a cup of coffee and they'll give you the passcode.
Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, up on the fifth floor.
A: Accessibility – This is an area where things are actually in very good shape. There is a free bus service called the Charm City Circulator. The multiple routes actually go places rather than it being a little downtown circular trolley. The two routes you'd be most interested in are the Purple route and the Banner route. The Purple route takes you into downtown, and most helpfully, to Penn Station (more about that later). The Banner route is the bus you take to the Harris Teeter grocery store in the McHenry Row neighborhood, as well as other stores and shops. See the next section about that. But the Purple route is helpful also. Uber and Lyft are everywhere.
P: Provisioning – Harris Teeter, 1.6 miles, is almost directly on the Banner route. Pick up the bus across Light Street from the Inner Harbor area. Go south. Get off at Whetstone Way, walk two short blocks – boom, there you are. When you're going back you walk back to where you got off the bus, cross East Fort Street to the corner at the Woodall Stop. There's also a Whole Foods around the other side of the harbor, but we don't count that as a provisioning resource. There's also a CVS 1,500 feet away from the piers. Baltimore hustles, so there are lots of stores and services of all kinds available.
P: Price – Their published transient rate on Active Captain is $2.00 per foot plus electrical. That's it. No discounts.
One of the great features of Baltimore is access to Washington D.C. Remember the Purple Circulator Route? Hop on the bus north that takes you directly to Penn Station. From there you can take the MARC commuter train that will whisk you off to Washington's Union Station in an hour for only $8 per person each way. Cheap. The aforementioned Visitors Center has all the info you need about it. Then in Washington you can buy a prepaid transit pass card and take the DC Circulator all around the town. It's really easy, and fun. The MARC train also goes to BWI (the Baltimore airport).
Verdict – It is unfortunate that Baltimore's Public Finger Piers have so much baggage. It is a high-energy and exciting destination. Maybe one of the gated marinas are more to your liking. That's perfectly understandable. But the Finger Piers puts you smack dab in the middle of all the action.
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