'This is Ego Alley on steroids' Inner Harbor: It's rivaling Annapolis' famous dock as the place for boaters to be seen.

August 26, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

All workweek long, Rick Krehling sits in an office with a phone in his ear. Yesterday, he found a better place.

It was a sunny place where he could wash down a crab cake with a cold beer. Where he could bake in the sun and take in an unending parade of locals, tourists and pretty girls -- all the while rocking in his 27-foot speedboat, Dirty Looks.

"Sounds like fun, doesn't it?" said Krehling, who tied his boat to a prime length of bulkhead at the edge of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. "We're here to drink a couple of frosties, see what's going on."

For boaters, the Inner Harbor is an urban and not-at-all-secluded cove. Some days may be for dropping anchor in a quiet Eastern Shore creek. But some days are for seeking out the bustle of the city -- and for getting there by water.

Michele Arkin-Hodges was a guest yesterday on a 32-foot Bayliner christened Rhapsody on the Blue, which was docked in front of Harborplace. She said: "It's the backdrop of Baltimore that makes it different. This is very dramatic."

Tracking across the water among the water taxis, the boats added an element of graceful movement to a postcard-sunny Inner Harbor day.

Veteran boaters said Baltimore is the most pleasure- boat-friendly of the big-city, mid-Atlantic ports. Dave Caulfield, a 34-year-old pipefitter from southern New Jersey, said, "Philadelphia doesn't even compare to this. Philly has nothing like this."

Dan Johnides, a sales manager from Hershey, Pa., said a nautical day trip to Baltimore is the flip side of the impulse to retreat to suburbia. It is, he said, a chance to mix with folks of all sorts.

"A lot of people come to the city because we miss that, as much we want to get away and control our environment," said Johnides, after helping to dock his friend's 45-foot sport-fishing boat.

The harbor's docks were filled early yesterday with boaters who had spent the night on board after Saturday night's baseball game. After all, consider that the price for overnight docking -- $1 a foot, plus $4 for electricity -- beats most downtown hotels.

During the day, the docking charge is $5 for four hours. This in an area where the nearest parking lot charges $1 an hour.

Starting about 11 a.m., the docks started to fill with boaters looking to sample downtown restaurants. Others were content to sit back, catch a breeze and watch the passers-by.

"We're watching them, and they're watching us," said Arkin-Hodges, the guest on Rhapsody on the Blue. "It's mutual."

Paul and Donna Downey, a Washington couple who spent the weekend at a downtown hotel, stopped to inspect a trio of speedboats. Donna said they were thinking of buying a boat. Paul said, "I think a lot of people come out on the boats to be seen."

Keith Kelley, a computer salesman from Ellicott City, wouldn't disagree. After docking his 34-foot Wellcraft, he said Annapolis' renowned Ego Alley has nothing on the Inner Harbor.

"This is Ego Alley on steroids," he said. "You just cruise along the dock lines. They don't have score cards, but people look nonetheless."

In all, it is a tame crowd. JoAnne Aiello Ditch, the city dockmaster for 15 years, said rowdy drunkards are not a problem.

"A long time ago, there was a lot of wildness among the boaters. People mellowed out, or grew up," she said. "People really know what we want here. This is a family port."

Indeed, although there is a boating subculture that hops to and from waterfront bars like the Bay Cafe and the Dead Eye Saloon, many of the boats ferry families to the Inner Harbor.

But not everyone boating among the tall buildings owned his own yacht. Lou Germani and Marion Connolly took to the water -- in a rented, 7-foot boat with an electric motor.

Germani said the trip was a chance to picture himself as a yachtsman.

"Something bigger would be wonderful," Germani said, "but you still feel like an insider pulling up. Like you belong.

"Like you're a boater."

Pub Date: 8/26/96

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