Fire deals harbor party boat a financial blow

Deckhand is injured in Lady Baltimore blaze

July 30, 2005|By Gus G. Sentementes and Doug Donovan | Gus G. Sentementes and Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

The Lady Baltimore, a popular party boat that has plied Inner Harbor waters for 20 years, was dealt a financial blow yesterday when it was damaged in an early morning fire while docked at the Light Street Pavilion.

The fire broke out about 6 a.m. near the stern of the 111-foot boat, damaging its decking.

Baltimore firefighters brought the blaze under control a half-hour later. A deckhand on night watch was treated for minor smoke inhalation, said Chief Kevin Cartwright, a Fire Department spokesman.

Cartwright said fire investigators had not determined a cause.

The boat - which can carry 450 people - has been a popular tourist draw and a local gathering place for parties, weddings, and special events.

It is operated by Harbor Cruises Ltd., which also owns another boat, the Bay Lady, out of the same Inner Harbor location.

Melinda Coleman, a company sales manager, said the boat, which is insured, sustained "cosmetic" damages - such as broken windows and ruined tables, chairs, fixtures and equipment.

She said the dance floor would likely take more than 45 days to renovate and replace.

The damage will cost its owner.

In the middle of the summer tourism season, the company has to offer refunds to about 2,000 people who had booked reservations over the next month.

Coleman said officials were able to move two weddings and a bat mitzvah to the Bay Lady, but other events and reservations have had to be canceled.

Coleman estimated that her company would lose about $250,000 in revenue.

Still, Coleman said it was better that a fire occurred now than earlier in the spring or summer.

"If it had to happen, I'm glad it didn't happen during prom season, because the boats usually go out day and night for parties."

Harbor Cruises is a member of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, which helps promote the boat, said Nancy Hinds, the association's vice president of public affairs.

The Lady Baltimore "offers visitors another thing to do while they're here," Hinds said. "The more we have to promote and the more visitors have to do in a city, the longer they'll stay and the more often they'll come back."

Hinds said the Lady Baltimore and Bay Lady have been mainstays of the Inner Harbor. "The two boats have been here forever," Hinds said. "It's unfortunate."

City Council President Sheila Dixon, who has used the Lady Baltimore for fundraisers and for her victory celebration after the 2003 primary election, said the boat is an "Inner Harbor landmark." She said she hopes it is back in service soon.

"It has so many memories for so many people," Dixon said.

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