There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
That familiar quotation from Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind in the Willows" is commonly used by pleasure boat owners to justify their passion, but the sentiment can apply to anyone -- especially in the summer in Maryland.
For in a state whose borders are mostly defined by water, you don't have to own a boat to briefly slip the land-bound realm and get a new perspective on things.
Baltimore's skyline, for instance, is an art deco blaze of color and light when seen at night from the deck of a harbor cruise boat.
You may never guess the stately lifestyle lived by some on the Eastern Shore until you've cruised up the Miles River to admire the manicured lawns which reach down to the water from hilltop mansions.
And even a brief crossing of a waterway aboard an automobile ferry, such as those that still ply the Potomac, Tred Avon and Wicomico rivers, offers a temporary transport from terra firma.
Across the state, several dozen scheduled tour boats of a variety of sizes and types offer fun, watery escapes. Here is a list of as many as we could find. Most have been gleaned from the "Maryland Travel & Outdoor Guide" published by the state Department of Economic and Employment Development, which also offers a variety of other statewide travel and leisure opportunities. For a free copy, call (800) 543-1036.
Included are commercial boats which offer trips on a regular schedule. Most can be taken without reservations, and a telephone call can provide exact sailing schedules and prices. It should be noted the list largely leaves out the myriad boats available for private charter for fishing, cruising and other purposes. (The aforementioned state publication does list some of these opportunities.)
So cast off for fun aboard one of these vessels:
*Chesapeake Flyer, 783-7500. New this year, the high-speed catamaran makes daily trips Tuesdays to Sundays from Baltimore's Constellation Dock to Rock Hall and St. Michaels, and Wednesdays to Saturdays between Baltimore, Rock Hall and Annapolis.
*Clipper City, 720 Light St., 539-6277. Daily harbor sailings from the Finger Piers (except Mondays) aboard a 158-foot sailing schooner, with daytime and evening cruises.
*Harbor Boating/Water Taxi, 1615 Thames St., Baltimore, 21231; Daily foot passenger service to and from harbor points, including Harborplace and Fells Point.
*Harbor Cruises Ltd., 301 Light St., Baltimore 21202; 727-3113. A variety of options and destinations aboard the big ships Lady Baltimore and Bay Lady, including visits to Annapolis, St. Michaels and the C&D Canal, as well as daily harbor cruises.
*Lady Zelma, 2931 O'Donnell St., Baltimore 21224; 979-7081. New this year, the 52-foot, 49-passenger stern-wheeler paddle boat operates from Harrison's Pier 5, offering one-hour harbor cruises and private charters.
*Maryland Tours Inc., Constellation Dock, Pratt and Light streets, Baltimore 21201; ticket office 685-4288. Daily (through Labor Day) narrated harbor cruises aboard the Baltimore Defender, Baltimore Guardian and the Baltimore Patriot.
*Schooner Nighthawk, P.O. Box 38153, Fells Point, 327-SAIL. Three-hour daily sailings aboard an 82-foot two-masted schooner.
*Skipjack Minnie V, 831 S. Bond St., 522-4214. Tuesdays to Fridays, 90-minute cruises aboard a working oyster dredge boat, docked at the Harborplace amphitheater dock.
*Chesapeake Marine Tours, P.O. Box 3350, Annapolis, 21403; (301) 268-7600 and (Baltimore line) 269-6776. A fleet of tour boats offers a variety of options, departing from the City Dock and including: 40-minute harbor/Spa Creek tours on the Harbor Queen and the Miss Anne; 90-minute tours of the harbor out to Greenbury Point and up the Severn River aboard the Providence; 7 1/2 -hour cruises on the bay to St. Michaels aboard the Annapolitan II, and additional cruises on the Cabaret.
*Jiffy Taxi, also operated by Chesapeake Marine Tours, (301) 263-0033. Offers point-to-point service around Annapolis harbor area.
*Chesapeake Bay Nature Cruises & Expeditions, P.O. Box 833, St. Michaels 21663; (301) 745-3255. Half-day, full-day and overnight cruises aboard the Odyssey.
*Patriot Cruises of St. Michaels, P.O. Box 1206, St. Michaels, 21663; (301) 745-3100. Daily sightseeing cruises of the Miles River, from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Luncheon available for 20 passengers or more (by reservation only).
*Capt. Tyler II, Somers Cove Marina, Crisfield, 21817; (301) 425-2771. Daily 75-minute cruises from Crisfield to Smith Island.
*Maryland Lady, P.O. Box 316, Salisbury 21801; (301) 543-2466. Lunch cruises, dinner cruises and sightseeing. Reservations required.
*Snow Hill Tours, 104 E. Market St., Snow Hill 21863; (301) 632-2102. Daily narrated cruises of the Pocomoke River aboard Tillie the Tug.
*Steven Thomas, Crisfield 21817; (301) 968-2338. Daily 90-minute cruises from Crisfield to Tangier Island, Va.
Ocean City area