Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 15: I Saw Three (More) Ships

Chesapeake steering wheel!

Of all the steering wheels we saw that day, the Lightship Chesapeake‘s was the grandest.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

The Historic Ships in Baltimore number four in all, and four is the number of preserved watercraft lining the north piers of the Inner Harbor for your perusal. After our casual walk through the 120-year-old USS Constellation, we tried to pick up the pace as we wound our ways through the other three. After a while some parts began to look alike, but each had its own unique features, especially the submarine.

Once upon a time throughout much of the 19th century and well into the 20th, America relied on the service of lightships. It was their job to bring luminescence to any underlit water bodies that lacked adequate lighthouse coverage and needed boats not to collide. Crews kept lightships manned and on the move until the early ’80s, by which time most such areas either had lighthouses built at long last or brought lighted buoys in to replace them. Sadly, lightships were another career track phased out by automation.

During that era, the lightship Chesapeake served the area around Chesapeake Bay from the mid-1930s until 1965, except for a reassignment during World War II as an armed monitor at Cape Cod. It’s since been an educational vessel for decades, and is presently parked at the Inner Harbor between the Dragon Boats and the National Aquarium.


(Foreshadowing mode = ON.)

Walk Down Stairs!

Most of its points of interest were on the lower decks, reached only by steep ladders with low ceilings overhead.

Leather booth!

Original leather booth dating back to the ship’s 1930 commissioning.

Machine Shop Area!

A few rooms were off limits, including the Machine Shop Area, whatever that might’ve been.


Plenty of room for cooking, because sailors have their priorities.

Cracked Porthole!

One of several portholes providing a peek at the Harbor from within.

Parked next door to the Chesapeake is the USS Torsk, a US Navy submarine that served 1944-1945 at Pearl Harbor, as well as two excursions toward Japan and sinking at least three enemy boats before the war ended. Afterward it was retasked as a Navy training sub until it was sent to dock permanently in Baltimore.


Older photos show a shark’s face painted on the near end. Either they were in the process of repainting it, or someone ordered it removed because someone thought sharks are evil and shouldn’t be celebrated.

Torsk red room!

A few of its underwater passages were lit in red, just like Crimson Tide, The Hunt for Red October, and all your other favorite submarine movies. Well, maybe not K-19: The Widowmaker.

Torsk forbidden door!

Once again, some areas were locked from touring, but glimpses and wondering about them were allowed.

Torsk parts!

Random classic sub parts. The lighting was so poor that most of our Torsk pics are blurry because it never occurs to us to turn on our camera flashes anymore.

Torsk torpedo room!

The torpedo room, It wouldn’t be a proper sub tour without one. This may have been one of the the two places where I hit my head on low doorways.

Torsk resting!

The Torsk has no air conditioning. so we stopped and rested whenever we found one of their working electric fans. We’d had a long day and it wasn’t over yet.

The final stop on our nautical package-deal tour was the USCGC Taney, a Coast Guard cutter renowned as the last surviving vessel to have fought at Pearl Harbor on 12/7/1941, sailing over from Honolulu Harbor to join the defense. It would later serve as an escort ship in the Atlantic theater, then return to the Pacific to serve as command ship at the Battle of Okinawa. Over the four decades after WWII its orders led it to numerous ocean-weather stations hither and yon, with one break for a ten-month tour of duty in Vietnam. After concluding its active years alternating between training and drug patrolling, “the Last Survivor of Pearl Harbor” has been in Baltimore since 1988.


You may have seen parts of the four ships in photos from previous chapters. Rest assured parts will keep popping up in more pics over subsequent chapters.

Taney upper deck!

The Taney‘s upper deck. It also has a gift shop, where I bought one of thosse “Images of America” books we frequently see wherever travel souvenirs are sold.

Coast Guard uniform!

Coast Guard uniform among the historical displays down below.

Taney hallway!

The Taney was positively spacious compared to the claustrophobic Torsk.

Coast Guard wins!

Collection of newspaper clippings celebrating great moments in Coast Guard history.

Taney kitchen!

The kitchen equipment —
flat grill, toaster, et al. —
takes me back to my old McDonald’s days.

Taney deck chair!

Comfy deck chair.

Taney lifeboat!

Lifeboat below. The Taney allows climbing between various levels, but by this time we were too dehydrated and sunburned to feel any sort of playground vibe.

Taney cannon!

Mandatory weaponry photo.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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