The Fleet is in! Maryland Fleet Week in Baltimore

Maryland Fleet Week

The Yard Patrol Craft YP 707 is dressed up in her finery for Maryland Fleet Week

A friend and I drove up to Baltimore to take in the festivities of Maryland Fleet Week. This celebration of Maryland’s maritime heritage has been running this week and will go on until this coming Sunday. Although you can go Monday and watch the ships depart it is best to get up there by Sunday. Fleet week takes place in Baltimore, mostly around the Inner Harbor and Fort McHenry, and offers up a host of events, including air shows, free ship visitations, a marathon, and live music. Those of you who follow this blog know that although I am a Washington area resident, I consider Baltimore my second city and love to get up there as much as I can. Yesterday was a glorious fall day and the presence of the US and Canadian Navy along with Coast Guard and NOAA vessels just enhanced the showcase that Baltimore’s gem of a harbor has become.

Maryland Fleet Week

The Pride of Baltimore coming into dock at Sunset

I primarily go to Maryland Fleet Week because I love ships and getting to see them. I was not disappointed as there were many on display; in fact more than we could get to in one day. All of the ships are open to visitors at no cost (check the hours on the website). The larger ships generally have guided tours but the smaller boats usually just let  you wander about. Security on American vessels was fairly light with the usual metal detectors but we did not find it bothersome. The two Canadian vessels in the harbor really stood out for their hospitality and the friendly attitude, but all of the crews (American and Canadian) were very welcoming. The usual tour included the above deck locations with a chance to see the bridge and some interior space. The lower spaces and engine rooms were usually not included. However some of the smaller craft did allow a visit below.

Maryland Fleet Week

Yes,even the US Army has vessels. Generally there was no waiting to get on the smaller craft.

Maryland Fleet Week

Hospitality on the Canadian ships was exceptional

Although crowds at Maryland Fleet Week are large, the wait to get on the bigger ships was not bad. I expect that Saturday and Sunday will see larger crowds and longer waiting periods. Parking was not too hard (paid parking). Due to the fine weather we choose to amble around the port on the water taxis that will take you to all the main points in the harbor.  If you don’t have your own boat there is no better way to see Baltimore’s harbor than from the taxis. However, be warned that they are not fast so don’t plan on rushing through a tight schedule on them. Give yourself plenty of time and plan on enjoying the ride. If it was not enough to get to visit some great ships we were entertained all afternoon by the aerobatics of the Navy’s Blue Angles overhead. To see them doing their brilliant close order maneuvers over the harbor and city is alone well worth the cost of admission. Oh wait, admission is free. I almost forgot that.

Maryland Fleet Week

The US Navy Blue Angels soar above the Port of Baltimore.

Most exciting thing for me was a visit to the USNS Carson City. This newly commissioned Spearhead class fast naval transport ship just totally blew us away. Not only is it a big fast catamaran type ship (50 mph) but the vessel is constructed entirely of aluminum and is not painted. This is an innovative weight saving design which allows the ship to have a minimum draft and very high speed. The USNS Carson City is operated by the Military Sealift Command. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that her unlicensed civilian crew was made up of members of my former union -the Seafarers International Union.

Maryland Fleet Week

The all aluminum Carson City is one of the fastest ships afloat.

Of special note is that the first ship of the new Zumwalt Class destroyer is present for this Fleet Week (docked at Locust Point near Fort McHenry), and open for the public to visit. Security is a bit tighter for this ship but it is well worth seeing as it is unlike any ship you have ever seen before. Your chances of seeing this highly sensitive vessel up close will be limited in the future. The USS Zumwalt captained by Captain James Kirk (seriously folks, I can’t make this up) is scheduled to be commissioned  this coming Sunday as one of the culminating events of Maryland Fleet Week. Unfortunately, there are no long ticket available for this but you can go on Friday or Saturday to see her.

Baltimore Fleet Week

The ultra modern USS Zumwalt awaits christening near Baltimore’s Fort McHenry -Photo from the Baltimore Sun

Maryland Fleet Week is an annual event. If you are thinking about a visit to Baltimore in the future, I highly recommend you plan your trip around this event. October is a great time of year to be in Maryland as far as weather goes and Fleet Week is when the City of Baltimore and her wonderful harbor are on their best display.

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