Education & Family

Smooth Sailing

Solar-powered pirate ships invade the Inner Harbor.

It’s a typical summer afternoon at the Inner Harbor, with ambient music emanating from the National Aquarium and pigeons strutting along the Baltimore Waterfront Promenade—but over at the Living Classrooms Foundation dock, a crowd of kids and their parents sway in excitement, mirroring the pint-size pirate ships they’re about to board.

Through November, swashbucklers can live out fantasies of sailing the seven seas with the Pirate Ships of Baltimore, a new 12-ship armada decked out with solar-powered motors, mini crow’s nests, and decorative cannons. The half-hour ride offers panoramic views of local landmarks including the Domino Sugars sign and the starboard side of the Chesapeake.

The fleet, which is owned and operated by Living Classrooms, is the first attraction to open at the Inner Harbor in five years and joins the organization’s iconic Chessie Dragon paddleboats for locals and visitors to explore the city by water. Designed by Baltimore-based manufacturer Premier Rides, the fiberglass ships, which hold six buccaneers each, are powered by lithium-ion batteries that use solar energy to cruise along the water for $25-35 per trip.

During the summer, Living Classrooms’ floating attractions employ more than 50 local teens and young adults, who pick up nautical know-how in addition to business skills. Darius Dickey, who oversees maintenance at the dock and has worked with the organization for the past six years, says it’s the kind of opportunity the city’s youth need during the summer.

“It keeps young people out of trouble,” Dickey says, “keeping them off the streets, having them on the right path. It makes them want to work and strive for something better.” As of late June, more than 700 riders have set sail on the pirate ships since the dock opened. “It’s easy for us to see the water from the city,” says Chris Rowsom, vice president of Heritage Programs for Living Classrooms, “but to see the city from the water is pretty cool.”