Several historic ships are permanently docked in the waters of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. In lieu of a traditional maritime museum, visitors can climb aboard and experience four historic ships firsthand. All of the ships (plus a lighthouse) are operated by Historic Ships in Baltimore.
You can't miss the tall masts of the last all-sail ship of the U.S. Navy, the U.S.S. Constellation, which is docked near the Inner Harbor Amphitheater on Pier 1 (close to Ripley's Believe It Or Not! and the Baltimore Visitor's Center). The ship was first launched in 1854, and was in active duty and used for training for 100 years before coming to Baltimore in 1955. Climb aboard and you'll find that nearly all of the ship is accessible. Explore on your own or ask for assistance from the staff. If you're lucky, you'll catch the daily cannon firing.
Walk east past the World Trade Center and several docks where you can rent paddle-boats made out to look like dragons until you reach Pier 3, the same pier where the National Aquarium is located. Look for a bright red ship that reads "Chesapeake" in capital white letters. Completed in 1930, this lightship served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1939 until she was decommissioned in 1971. Designated a National Historic Landmark, the ship was handed over to Baltimore in 1982 and is open for tours.
Also on Pier 3, the U.S.S. Torsk is a gray submarine painted with jagged teeth. This historic ship served 24 years with the U.S. Navy, including two war patrols off Japan in 1945, sinking one cargo vessel and two coastal defense frigates. The latter was the last enemy ship sunk by the U.S. Navy in World War II. Nicknamed both the "Galloping Ghost of the Japanese Coast" and the "Last Survivor of Pearl Harbor," the ship also served during the Vietnam War, hunted for hurricanes off the coast of New Jersey in the 1970s, and carried out drug interdiction patrols and search and rescue duties in the Caribbean until 1986 (including a 1985 bust that netted 160 tons of marijuana, the largest in U.S. history). Today Baltimore is lucky to have it docked in the Inner Harbor as a memorial and museum.
Hop over to Pier 5 and look for the U.S.C.G.C. Taney, a famed Coast Guard cutter built in the mid-1930s.Notable for being the last ship floating that fought in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the ship is named for Roger B. Taney, who served as U.S. Attorney General, Secretary of the Treasury, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court during his lifetime. The ship itself served during World War II and the Vietnam War and now acts as another memorial and a museum that makes up a quarter of the Historic Ships in Baltimore fleet.
Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse
On the edge of Pier 5 is the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, a round, raised building that is painted bright red. The last of its kind in Maryland, the lighthouse was constructed in the "screw-pile" style, meaning it sits on piles that are meant to be screwed into sandy or muddy sea or river bottoms. Originally installed on a shallow shoal at the mouth of the Patapsco River, the isolated lighthouse was manned by three keepers at a time and marked the river entrance for over 130 years before being decommissioned and transported to Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Now a museum, the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse is free to all visitors.
If you're into ships and maritime history, don't miss the tall mast that stands upright on the southern side of the Inner Harbor (near Federal Hill). The mast is a memorial to the Pride of Baltimore, an authentic reproduction of a 19th-century Baltimore clipper that was lost at sea with four of its twelve crew on May 14, 1986. The ship was commissioned by the City of Baltimore in 1975 as part of a plan to revitalize the Inner Harbor and sailed over 150,000 nautical miles during her nine years of service.
While returning from Britain on the trade route to the Caribbean, the ship capsized and sank when a windstorm struck just 250 nautical miles north of Puerto Rico. The captain and three crew were lost at sea while the remaining eight crewmembers floated on a partially inflated life-raft for over four days until a Norwegian tanker rescued them. A replica of the vessel replaced the pride in 1988 and now sails as a Goodwill Ambassador that represents Baltimore and the State of Maryland. It, too, can often be seen in the Inner Harbor.