Rain Rain Go Away

Trip Start Feb 15, 2010
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40
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Trip End Feb 14, 2011


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Flag of United States  , Maryland
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Today I traveled to the Baltimore Harbor where they have a few historic ships that have been docked and modified to serve as floating naval museums.  Once again, a steady rain was coming down to ruin my aspirations of doing a lot of walking around.  I also decided that I wouldn't worry too much about getting to the capitol building in Baltimore because of the financial and psychological costs of finding another place to park in a big city.

The first I visited was the USS Constellation, an 1854 Sloop of War.  I have been aboard wooden replicas of a few smaller sailing ships so far during my journey, but they couldn't compare to the grand spectacle of this full-sized authentic naval warship.  During its years of service, the Constellation sailed with the Mediterranean Fleet, as flagship of the African Squadron disrupting the slave trade, as a blockading vessel against Confederate trade ships in the Mediterranean during the Civil War, a training vessel, and lastly as the relief flagship of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet during WWII.  The ship had four levels.  The main deck consisted of the masts, sails, and helm.  The gun deck had some space for footlockers of supplies, the ship's eighteen cannons, and the captain's quarters behind a separation wall at the stern.  The crew deck from bow to stern held the sick bay, hammocks for the crew, cabins for ship specialists who were not officers, ie: carpenter, and officer's country with a small cabin built along the bulkheads for each officer.  The lower deck was mostly open space with about 1/3 of the length having a floor built above the cargo space to provide space for a workshop, bread storage rooms, and a small brig.  In its day the cargo space would have been filled mostly with lined tanks of drinking water with other supplies stacked on top of these tanks.  Depending on their usage, all of the contents would occasionally have to be removed from the ship at port so that they could be brought back in and arranged to provide proper balance.  The gunpowder stores were located under the floor of the workshop area and were built into an area designed to be flooded should there be a fire aboard the ship.  This also kept the gunpowder below the waterline should there be a battle.  During battles, gunpowder was brought up to the men manning the cannons by young boys between the ages of 13 and 18.  They were known as "powder monkeys," and they were present on nearly every naval ship during those times.  Visiting this ship was a really unique experience and it's amazing how such a large wooden vessel could make the journeys that it did.  I'm kind of curious to find out if there are any opportunities to join the crew of any replica or restored ships of this sort.  It would be a really unique experience to actually sail the seas in a large wooden ship like the USS Constellation.

Next was the USS Torsk, a WWII submarine.  The Torsk was the last U.S. warship to fire torpedoes at an enemy vessel during WWII.  After WWII it was used as a training vessel and did various other active missions as needed.  When decommissioned it had a record of over 10,600 dives.  I've never had the opportunity to visit a submarine before, so this was an exciting experience.  I'm sure it would be much more interesting to be aboard a fully functioning vessel with a crew, but it was a very interesting look into the lives of the men who would spend weeks or months at a time without seeing daylight.  The boat was definitely cramped and there were bunks located almost anywhere that there was extra room, including the two torpedo bays (I'm sure that was also out of a need to have a crew nearby in case of attack).  The Torsk is the only naval vessel I have seen where the officer's quarters didn't seem to differ much from the rest of the crew.  Only moderately in level of privacy and convenience, as they had three to a room (cupboard) and their own sink instead of a single open room for beds with shared facilities.  The racks were usually stacked three to four high, but that's normal for most naval vessels.  The only difference there was the headroom.  The hatches between the sections of the ship were definitely a bit of a trick for me to get through.  I can't imagine an entire crew trying to rush through the ship during an emergency.  If I remember right, the basic sections of the ship were the stern torpedo bay, the engine rooms, the war room, the crew living quarters, the mess deck, the bridge, the officer's quarters and officer's dining room, the radar room, and the aft torpedo deck.  The sheer amount of engineering in the submarine was what really got my head spinning, though.  Everywhere I looked there were pipes winding around the walls in every direction with a hundred different gauges attached.  I have no idea which ones were for the engines, the electrical system, or the ship itself.  All in all, it was very interesting, and while I would have liked to experience life on a submarine, I think that the "glamour" of it would have faded rather quickly.

The last ship I visited was the USCGC Taney, a 1936 Coast Guard cutter ship.  The Taney was present during Pearl Harbor and was the last ship still in commission by the late 1960's, earning it the title of "The Last Survivor of Pearl Harbor."  The Taney was used extensively during WWII, and was present during the Battle of Okinawa.  After WWII, the ship was used for regular coastal duties in California until being sent over to the waters south of the Vietnam War.  After that, the ship was used on the east coast for various training and patrol missions.  During one drug bust in 1985, the crew of the Taney seized 160 tons of marijuana!

I stopped in at a nearby Barnes & Nobles after visiting my last ship to get out of the rain and decide what to do next.  I decided on going to dinner at a popular seafood restaurant not too far away called, Obricky's.  The television show, Man vs. Food, filmed part of an episode there, but I don't believe he did an actual challenge there.  I decided to try their well-reputed crab cakes, and I did not regret the decision.

After dinner, I drove to the other side of Chesapeake Bay to Easton, MD for the night.
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