Event Spotlight

Fleet Week Baltimore, Past and Present


Over thirty years ago, I served as a Marine on board the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), the last and largest conventional (non-nuclear powered) U.S. aircraft carrier.  When our crew of over 5000 wasn’t working or training to support naval flight operations, we were given the opportunity to spend time in various ports.  Some of these ports celebrated our visit with Fleet Week, an event first recognized in 1935 at the California Pacific International Exposition.  In 2016 and 2018, I experienced Fleet Week again, but this time as a civilian in Baltimore, Maryland, paddling among the moored vessels on my standup paddleboard (SUP).  This festive event, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, is scheduled to occur again on September 7-13, 2022, and includes an air show and ship tours…so mark your calendar!

For the first Maryland Fleet Week & Air Show Baltimore, which took place in October 2016, I launched my SUP from Canton Waterfront Park and then paddled east towards the Baltimore Inner Harbor.  The harbor was packed with people anticipating the arrival of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron.  I expected to see several other small watercraft, but I counted only eight kayaks, a few small powerboats, and no other SUPs.  This was largely due to area closures near Fort McHenry which prevented boats from traveling through a restricted zone during the air show.  Hearing the roar of F/A 18 Hornet fighter jets, I turned and saw the squadron zip past.  The crowd “oohed” and “ahhed” while some people scurried around to get a better view.  But standing on my SUP, I was happy to be in such an excellent position to witness the flawless flight acrobatics that make the Blue Angels famous.

Watching the U.S. Navy Blue Angels air show performance

The most talked-about ship at Fleet Week 2016, the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), was also the least accessible, due to security restrictions.  Named after Admiral Elmo Russell Zumwalt, Jr., the youngest man to serve as the Chief of Naval Operation, this technologically-advanced, 610-foot-long destroyer introduced significant design innovations: stealth profile, small crew size, wave-piercing tumblehome hull, state-of-the-art electric propulsion and the latest long-range gun and missile weaponry.  Next to the Zumwalt, the USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) guided missile cruiser and the USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) guided missile destroyer were also docked.  A floating yellow barricade and patrolling police boat made sure I observed these ships from no closer than 100 yards.

USS Zumwalt destroyer

One great thing about viewing the vessels in Baltimore is experiencing the striking juxtaposition of the modern city skyline with historic naval relics like the USS Torsk (SS-423) World War II submarine and the USS Constellation Civil War-era warship, both of which are regularly moored in the Inner Harbor.  Paddling past the historic Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, completed in 1855, I saw the visiting U.S. Navy Yard Patrol (YP 707) Craft.  Training ships like these are designed to teach navigation and seamanship to midshipmen.

U.S. Navy Yard Patrol Craft with the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse

Fifteen vessels were featured at Fleet Week 2016.  Although most were U.S. military ships, two were from the Royal Canadian Navy: the Iroquois-class destroyer Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Athabaskan (DDG 282) and the Kingston-class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel HMCS Shawinigan (MM 704).  Additionally, two boats were civilian: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Research Vessel Bay Hydro II and Pride of Baltimore II.  The latter is a Baltimore Clipper topsail schooner commissioned in 1988 at Brown's Wharf in Fells Point, near the shipyard where the schooner Chasseur, later called Pride of Baltimore, was built in 1812.

Pride of Baltimore II schooner

Two years later, I showed up at the second Maryland Fleet Week & Air Show Baltimore, in October 2018.  This time, instead of the Blue Angels, the Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration squadron flew their F-16 Fighting Falcons for the air show.

Sixteen vessels were featured at Fleet Week 2018, and the most beautiful, in my opinion, was the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Eagle, a 295-foot-long training ship built in Hamburg, Germany in 1936.  At the end of World War II, this ship was taken as war reparation, re-commissioned as the Eagle, and sailed to New London, Connecticut, her current home port.

USCGC Eagle training ship

Like Fleet Week 2016, some foreign ships were present, such as the HMCS Moncton.  This Canadian ship was initially built to be a minesweeper, but has since assumed other duties, including patrols in the Arctic and drug-interdiction operations in the Caribbean.  One of my favorite ships was the 436-foot-long Her Majesty's Ship (HMS) Monmouth (F235) (shown in the top photo).  Known as “The Black Duke,” this British frigate earned more battle honors, upon its decommissioning, than any other serving warship in the Royal Navy.

HMCS Moncton   

A few of the smaller vessels at Fleet Week 2018 also participated in 2016, such as the Bay Hydro II and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ steel debris vessel Reynolds, which patrols the Baltimore Harbor and Patapsco River for debris that could be potentially hazardous to navigation.  But it was the big, sleek, modern naval ships such as the USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) which piqued the curiosity of many.  This Freedom-class littoral combat ship, commissioned in 2015, is the fifth to be named for the largest city in Wisconsin.

USS Milwaukee

Both of my Fleet Week paddleboarding trips covered only about 6.5 miles, but what I saw in that short distance was extremely memorable.  I can hardly wait to get my SUP on the water for the next Maryland Fleet Week & Flyover Baltimore.  Hope to see you there!  

2022 lineup of vessels and berthing locations:


  • USS Minneapolis Saint-Paul (LCS 21)
  • Tall Ship Danmark (Denmark)
  • USS Constellation (Historic Ships in Baltimore) (admission fee)
  • HMCS Moncton (M708, Canada)
  • US Light Ship Chesapeake/USS Torsk (Historic Ships in Baltimore) (admission fee)
  • USCGC 37 (Historic Ships in Baltimore) (admission fee)
  • USNS Newport (T-EPF 12)
  • USCGC James Rankin (WLM 555)
  • USNA Yard Patrol Craft (YP)


  • HMCS Glace Bay (M701, Canada)
  • HMS Richmond (F 239, Great Britain)


  • USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) (Closed for visitation Friday, 9/9)
  • USACE Reynolds
  • USACE Catlet

For more information and details on the 2022 schedules, visit www.mdfleetweek.org

For more information, see

Historic Ships of Baltimore
Maryland Fleet Week & Air Show Baltimore [2018]
Maryland Fleet Week & Flyover Baltimore [2022]

Lightship Chesapeake & Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse

On Baltimore's Inner Harbor tour two historic Chesapeake Bay icons - the Lightship Chesapeake and the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse - both part of Historic Ships in Baltimore.

Pride of Baltimore II

Pride of Baltimore II is a sailing reproduction of an 1812-era privateer or "Baltimore Clipper," the kind of vessel that precipitated the Chesapeake Campaign during the War of 1812.

USS Constellation Museum

The last all sail warship built by the US Navy, USS Constellation served her country for 100 years before her final decommissioning in 1955. It is now a center-piece of Baltimore's Inner Harbor.


Saki has been exploring the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries on kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP) since 1999. He has competed in various races, organized and led numerous trips, and circumnavigated Kent Island both via kayak and SUP. Saki also enjoys nature photography, hiking, cross country skiing, raising chickens, beekeeping, and looking for new adventures. Saki's World https://www.sakisworld.com/ is a great source of information about all these activities.

August 17, 2022

Main image: Paddleboarding near the HMS Monmouth during Maryland Fleet Week & Air Show Baltimore 2018, all photos by Saki
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