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.
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.
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.
To be continued!
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