Friday, August 21, 2009

Vacation: Day 3 Baltimore continued...

It was noon by the time we were finished touring Ft. McHenry so we hopped back on the water taxi and headed back to the Inner Harbor for lunch. At one of our transfer docks earlier that morning we had noticed a beautiful bronze and gold statue in the distance, but our next taxi came right away and we didn't have time to investigate.

This time we had a brief wait so I sprinted down the block to see who or what was commemorated by the monument. I couldn't have been more surprised at what I read. The statue was a memorial to Cashmir Pulaski. Cashmir Pulaski, the hero to Illinois school children, who even though they've never heard of him or know what he is famous for, thank him annually for the day off of school he gives them. The statue honors Pulaski and other Polish immigrants who fought along side American troops in the various wars. Well, blow me down. Let's eat.

On vacation we almost never eat out. We eat at camp in the morning and at night and pack lunches and snacks to eat on our day trips. But, we had a recommendation from our preacher, who grew up in Baltimore, that we had try the best crab cakes on the planet at Phillip's Seafood, so we bent the rules this once and tried the restaurant.

He was right. The crab cakes were outstanding. Now, I must confess that I have never had a crab cake before so I had nothing to compare it to, but I will also confess that I don't particularly like seafood. (I eat crab exactly one time a year in honor of Sig and the boys on Northwestern and all of their hard work.) So for me to say that something containing crab was outstanding is really saying something. They were absolutely delicious!!

After our scrumptious lunch we headed off to the first of the the three boats we planned to tour in the harbor, The U.S.S. Constellation.

The Constellation is a 38 gun frigate that was constructed in 1797 and was the first ever U.S. Navy ship put to sea and the first U.S. Navy ship to ever engage and capture and enemy ship. It was decommissioned in 1853 and broken up for scraps. Many pieces of the original ship were used in building a second Constellation in 1854 which has been immaculately maintained and restored over the years and now sits in Baltimore Harbor for all to see and experience.

We picked up phones so that we could have our tour through the ship narrated and headed up to the top deck where they were just preparing to fire one of the cannons.

The boys were too shy of course but Kinley volunteered to help pull the ropes and move the cannon in to place at the rails.

After the demonstration we explored all four decks of the ship, learning about 19th century sailing life as we went. This is the original wheel from the Constellation. The one on deck that you can touch is a reproduction.

Ryker enjoyed seeing all of the huge cannons below decks.

One of the middle decks was reserved for the crew quarters. Basically a series of hooks and hammocks. Not the life of luxury for sure. I was impressed that they understood a little bit about germs and disease in that each man had his own hammock which was brought up top to air out and be stored while the other shift slept below. They knew better than to share hammocks, at least.

The officers had slightly more opulent state rooms complete with a feather bed and a desk.

The captain of course had a huge stateroom complete with a double bed, dining table that seated 12 men, a bath tub and a toilet (otherwise known as a hole open to the sea below).
We saw the ship's sick bay, brig and hold as well but it was so dark in there that the pictures aren't very good. The kids really loved exploring the old ship.

Next we moved on to more recent naval history and the U.S.S. Torsk.

The Torsk is a naval submarine built in 1944 and sent to Pearl Harbor in 1945 to patrol the Pacific waters. By the time the Torsk joined the fray there were very few Japanese targets left to sink but it did manage to sink three small ships and has the distinction of firing the last torpedo of World War II when it sank a ship on August 14th just a few hours before the cease fire was signed on August 15, 1945. After the war the Torsk was used as a training vessel and later fitted with a deep sea snorkel that allowed her to run on her diesel engines even while submerged. She was also one of the first ships fitted with Regulus missiles in the 1960s. She was retired in 1972 and sent to the Baltimore Harbor as a memorial and tourist attraction.

We were once again allowed the roam the ship freely....which if you've ever been on a submarine you know that "roaming" isn't really a possibility. The cramped quarters are oppressive. I could never live on a sub. There is basically one long hallway about 2 feet wide from bow to stern. If you want to go anywhere on the ship you have to walk through every other part of the ship to get there, passing through numerous tiny hatches that require you to step up and duck down at the same time.

The 36 sailors on board each had a bunk and a small locker, but there wasn't room for all 36 in one "bedroom" so the bunks, stacked 3 or 4 high, were crammed in to the torpedo room and anywhere else they could fit.
The mess hall actually seemed to be the most spacious area on the ship but the galley was smaller than my closet and the refrigerator and freezer were built in to the floor beneath the cook's feet.

We saw the sonar station....

....the radio operator's station.....

...the torpedo room....

....and the ship's medical supplies.

I tried to call the captain but he wasn't answering.

We had planned to end our day there....considering we still had to drive to our campground outside of D.C. and set up camp and have supper, but it was 4:45 which meant the ships were open for 15 more minutes. Brian and the boys couldn't resist. They sprinted off to the U.S.S. Chesapeake.

The Chesapeake is a lighthouse ship used before and during WWII to light the way in harbors and ports without adequate lighthouses. Ryker ran the throttle and Cainan did the steering. I'm glad I wasn't on board.

We had an excellent day in Baltimore. The kids absolutely loved every minute of it. The weather was perfect and the price was right. Fort McHenry was free and with our coupon from the water taxi we got to see all three ships in the harbor for the price of one! It was a great day!

Next up: WAHSINGTON D.C.....or walking, walking and more walking.


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