You cannot miss the Historic Ships as you walk around Inner Harbor in Baltimore. The centrepiece is most definitely the USS Constellation (or ‘Pirate Ship’ as Toby called it). This ship fires a cannon at noon each day, much to the shock of anyone not in the know!
As well as USS Constellation, you can visit a submarine, a lightship, a coastguard cutter, and a lighthouse. On the day we visited only three were open to the public, but they were all moored close together so this suited us. The cost for tickets depends on how many ships you visit – two of the vessels are located further around the harbour, so you need to factor in how you will travel between them (there is a regular water taxi service).
Historic Ships: USS Constellation
The first ship we visited was the USS Constellation. The audio set you can carry around with you has lots (and lots) of information: we definitely recommend this. The sloop has four decks to explore. However, you do need to be physically able to climb up and down ladders. If you are short, even better as you won’t bang your head!
The gun deck was a particular hit with Toby as he’d never seen so many ‘mini-cannons’ on a ship before. The next deck down fascinated the rest of us. Hammocks – lots of them! There wasn’t much ‘personal space’ let’s say. Beyond all the hammocks we came across the medical centre and displays of shiny, scary amputation apparatus. We listened to the audio recording that told us how limbs were lopped off … ouch! The gruesome twosome (Millie-Mae and Toby) found this very interesting!
The deepest deck was the storage space. Here it was a real advantage to be short as the ceiling was very low. This deck felt haunted. Don’t ask me why, I just thought so … MM did say that according to the audio tour ghosts had been felt and seen on board (I knew it!)
Historic Ships: LV116 Chesapeake
Moored just across the harbour, outside the National Aquarium entrance, was LV116 Chesapeake. Chesapeake is a US Lighthouse Service ship that went into service in 1930. Basically she is a floating lighthouse – I never knew such a vessel existed. From 1933 to the beginning of World War II she marked the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, returning there in 1945 until her retirement. With advances in technology, she was taken out of service in 1970. Powered by four diesel engines, Chesapeake’s signalling equipment consisted of a 13,000 candle-power electric beacon, a foghorn, a radio beacon and a fog bell. The ship had two 5,000-pound anchors as it needed to stay still in all weathers.
A ladder took you below deck on Chesapeake. The children enjoyed exploring, but to be honest once we explained what the ship’s job was, they didn’t really want to learn the details. Kids hey …
Historic Ships: USS Torsk
Our final vessel during our Historic Ships tour was the USS Torsk. For me, we saved the best till last! The USS Torsk is a submarine, moored next to Chesapeake outside the National Aquarium in Inner Harbor. Commissioned in December 1944, USS Torsk was stationed around Pearl Harbor where it is credited for sinking three Japanese ships before peace broke out.
Climbing through USS Torsk was a lot of fun, and a good workout! What hits you first is just how cramped it was. And we were the only visitors at that time! Imagine it full of submariners, eek. It was definitely a bit claustrophobic for me. What was really interesting was how the submarine was divided into sections – each one very different from the next. It may look like a huge tube from the outside, but it’s a cleverly organised group of rooms inside. Each room has very specific duties, be it for sleeping, storing, navigating, cooking, firing/ammunition, or driving (ok, wrong term, but you know what I mean!)
The kids LOVED visiting the submarine. It’s the second one they’ve walked through, having visited U-995 back in the summer last year, in Kiel, Germany (USS Torsk was much bigger).
Historic Ships in Baltimore is a great visit for all ages. We’d have loved to have visited the remaining two vessels – USCGC Taney (Coast Guard cutter) and the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse. Definitely next time!