Escape from the Inner Harbor

UP FRONT

Boating: Kayaking and sailing provide a relaxed new perspective on the hustle and bustle of the downtown showpiece.

August 19, 1999|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Sun Staff

It's mid-morning, and the Inner Harbor is quiet. Harry Shuber glides along, not worrying one iota about bumping into jostling crowds. That's not likely to happen where Shuber is. He's actually in the Inner Harbor, not at it.

Shuber is in a kayak. He dips first the right blade, then the left blade of his paddle into the still water and waxes poetic about this vantage point.

"It's a beautiful thing," he says. "This brings out the best parts of the city. And there is no reason why people who live in the city -- and who can't get away for a week or so -- can't enjoy this incredible resource here. You can be in the Inner Harbor and watch all of the bustling going on from the water."

Shuber is doing a lot of that lately. Since the spring, he has been offering tours through Sunrise Expeditions. A three-hour kayaking tour goes through Canton, Fells Point and the Inner Harbor.

Each tour begins in Fells Point, and the trips are limited to a maximum of six kayaks. Four-hour tours of the Chesapeake Bay are also offered.

Anthony Lamartina had been kayaking a few times, but not in the Inner Harbor. Then he found out about Sunrise and decided to give it a whirl.

"I've been on lots of rivers," says Lamartina, a 31-year-old electrician who lives in Dundalk. "I grew up here and have lived here most of my life. I always wanted to see the Inner Harbor from a different perspective."

He did.

"It was very peaceful," Lamartina says. "You get to see things from the shoreline. I did it one time and will definitely do it again. I'm just waiting for a day off from work."

James Reid Edwards took to kayaking like a fish takes to . . . well, you know.

"I have done just about every sport there is, but I never dreamed about kayaking," Edwards says. Then a friend mentioned the new kayaking business, based at 800 S. Broadway in Fells Point, and he decided to give it a try.

"Shuber introduced me to kayaking, and I fell in love with it. Kayaking makes me forget that I have this high-stress job," says Edwards, who is a real-estate auctioneer.

He enjoyed it so much that, two weeks after his first experience, he bought his own kayak.

"I run and ride a mountain bike daily for my lower body workout," says the youthful 61-year-old from Joppatowne. "I got tired of using the free weights. So kayaking is a great upper body workout," he says.

William Bordeau went on an Inner Harbor kayaking tour with his wife and two daughters.

"It sounded like it would be fun, and it was enjoyable," says Bordeau, who lives in Bel Air.

"We had taken boats like the Princess Bay Lady before but nothing like paddling around," he says, adding that he would definitely do it again.

The sea kayaks used at Sunrise are stable and extremely difficult to tip over, Shuber says. And the water, of course, is not rushing in cascades of waves, nor are there huge boulders and rocks to navigate around.

The skills involved in Inner Harbor kayaking, therefore, are easy for someone with no previous experience to pick up quickly.

And not to worry about getting drenched. You wear a "sprayskirt" while sitting in the cockpit of a kayak. It's a waterproof, nylon garment that slips on like a skirt. The edges of the skirt fit around the cockpit to form a seal. The purpose of the skirt is to keep water from splashing into your lap.

Then it's just a matter of paddling along at your own pace or the pace of the group. "It's nice to be on the water and not on one of the big ships, water taxis or on a motorboat. Not that I have anything against motorboats. But it's beautiful being out in a self-propelled craft," Shuber says.

Kayaking isn't the only way to get around the harbor without a motor. The Downtown Sailing Center has been around for six years.

"What is unique about us is that we are a nonprofit community sailing center," says executive director Kirk Culbertson.

On any beautiful day in Baltimore, sailboats from the Downtown Sailing Center can be seen in the harbor.

"People think Annapolis is the sailing capital in the area," Culbertson says. "That, and there is racing in the Curtis Bay area. But the harbor is a wonderful place for kids and everyone to sail. There is flat water, no waves. There are controlled conditions.

"People can use the surroundings to acclimate themselves. You can point to a building somewhere and sail toward that. People have never seen the city from the water. And there is always something to see," he says.

Among other programs, the Downtown Sailing Center offers a youth sailing camp, an adult education program for beginning and intermediate sailors and a "SuperKids Camp" for city children, which is sponsored by the Parks and People Foundation.

The center is a membership organization for novices to skilled skippers. However, it does not offer rentals.

"Our purpose is to promote sailing and education about sailing," Culbertson says.

The facts

What: Sunrise Expeditions kayaking tours

When: Call for reservations; tours offered daily

Where: 800 S. Broadway; the tours are around the Inner Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay

Cost: Harbor tour is $45 for three hours. Chesapeake tour is $55 for four hours.

Call: 410-534-9500

Web: www.sunrise-exp.com/kayak

What: Downtown Sailing Center

Where: Baltimore Museum of Industry, 1425 Key Highway

Cost: Different membership levels are tailored to skills from beginning crew member to race skipper. They begin at a basic membership of $25, which includes invitations to all sailing parties, such as the "First Friday Parties" held on the first Friday of each month. For $550, the advanced skipper membership includes all privileges of the other levels and the right to reserve any boat in the fleet.

Call: 410-727-2884

Web: www.downtownsailing.org

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