Over the last few months, the team at Sagamore Ventures has had the thrill and honor of spending a great deal of time working with our friends at the Baltimore Water Taxi. Together, we’ve planned a number of improvements around boat design, technology, infrastructure, and commuting services. For each one of these elements, we will share these new experiences with you via this blog series on our website. Each blog post will highlight the processes and changes while giving you a glimpse of what riders will experience upon completion. To kick off our series, our first blog post will focus on the new design for the vessels and the process by which we reached that design.
Before diving into the topic of design, allow us to provide some background information into why Sagamore Ventures became involved with the Baltimore Water Taxi. Primarily, we saw the value of the Baltimore Harbor as an asset to our city. The water is already a drawing force for people to gather, relax, shop, eat, and achieve a level of serenity that is only possible with proximity to nature. Simultaneously, we experienced the inefficiency and inconvenience of existing transportation in the city. Traffic can be difficult, particularly within central corridors during peak hours. Buses can often be unreliable or inconvenient for the origin and destination locations, sometimes involving multiple transfers. We believe that the harbor is an untapped resource that can be turned into a viable source for public transportation.
For this project, our goal is to elevate the performance, convenience and appeal of the existing water taxi system. We hope that this will not only provide a practical method of daily transportation for Baltimore residents, but also allow visitors to experience the charms this great city has to offer.
One of the first elements we approached was the design of the boats themselves. At the beginning of the process, we knew each vessel needed to satisfy certain requirements. Each boat must be equipped to carry 49 passengers comfortably, operate year-round, and maneuver easily about the harbor. In addition, we established the desire to honor the history and heritage of our Baltimore home. We looked at a number of different pre-design boats, but none of them offered a look as distinct and Maryland-focused as we had hoped for. As a result, we set out to design a boat of our own from scratch.
We had never designed a boat before, so first we sought some inspiration. We made the 90-minute drive from our offices in Port Covington to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s on the Eastern Shore. We wanted to research historic Maryland boat models and decide on a look for the new water taxis that would live up to Maryland’s rooted and treasured boating heritage.
The final design we landed on draws inspiration from the classic Chesapeake Bay Deadrise boats, a type of traditional fishing boat used by watermen year-round for everything from crabbing and oystering, to catching fish and eels. Traditionally wooden-hulled, the “deadrise” is characterized by a sharp bow that quickly becomes a flat V-shape moving along the bottom of the hull. There is a small cabin, but most of the walkable space is on an upper deck, which is perfect for carrying many passengers.
In addition, we decided to include a “Hooper Island Draketail,” a popular feature among many of the first powered fishing boats on the Chesapeake Bay in the 1920’s and 1930’s. A draketail, or “ducktail,” features a rounded sloping transom (the surface that forms the stern, or back of a vessel) that meets the waterline at a sharp angle. This configuration was inspired by World War I destroyer designs.
We also added a “Baltiflage” pattern to the outside of each one to show the city flag of Baltimore in a muted black and grey palette. The first boat in the fleet is called “Key’s Anthem” as a nod to Francis Scott Key and our national anthem that was written in Baltimore during the War of 1812. The inside ceiling bears the outline of Fort McHenry and is also outfitted with LED lights that will shine at night. Each of the boats will show a storytelling piece on the ceiling to tell individual parts of the narrative of Baltimore.
The boats are custom-built by Baltimore-based Maritime Applied Physics Corporation. The Sagamore Creative team came up with a new logo in the shape of a “W” for “water taxi” made out of the city’s black-and-yellow checkered flag, and the longitude and latitude of the Inner Harbor are painted on the rear. The boats are made using aluminum.
Sagamore Ventures and our partners at Sagamore Creative put a great deal of time and thought into the design and construction of the new water taxi vessels. We believe that they will help tell the story of Baltimore and make water transportation a practical and enjoyable option for both locals and visitors.