History and Mission
Sail Baltimore, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, provides a free, annual, public program of visiting ships and maritime events. In operation since 1975, our mission is one of economic development, education and cultural exchange. Each year, we produce a free program of visiting ships and maritime events to benefit the area’s residents, visitors, youth and business community.
Sail Baltimore is the city’s blockbuster attraction, a changing museum in our harbor, in which residents and visitors alike can learn about various cultures around the world. Through our visiting ships program, participating vessels come and go throughout the year, staying for anywhere from one day to several weeks, and opening their decks to the public for free tours. Because of Sail Baltimore’s efforts to bring ships to Baltimore and publicize each ship visit, visitors are able to go on board and tour these unique ships, learn about different cultures, interact with people from around the world, learn about navigation, geography, technology, and maritime history.
Sail Baltimore spends significant effort and resources annually in recruiting ships from around the world to visit Baltimore. Numerous cities worldwide have awakened to the benefit of these ships and therefore competition to win these ships has become fierce. Through Sail Baltimore’s decades-long track record in hosting ships, we have earned Baltimore a worldwide reputation as a great place to visit. Sail Baltimore must continue to work to maintain this reputation through excellent service to our visiting ships and our ongoing recruitment efforts.
Visiting Ships Program
On an annual basis, Sail Baltimore welcomes an average of two dozen ships to Baltimore’s waterfront, including international tall ships, military vessels, educational and environmental ships. Sail Baltimore’s visiting ships program provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for an interactive, cultural learning experience that enhances the quality of life for our entire community. Ships are docked in the Inner Harbor, Fells Point and Locust Point. A wide variety of international countries, cultures and ship types are represented in our program. No other program provides such a distinctive, ever-changing opportunity to learn about international cultures and maritime heritage without leaving home.
Through our ongoing, intensive recruiting efforts we are able to provide this free, year-round public attraction. Our recruitment campaign includes ongoing efforts at the international embassies in Washington, letter writing and telephone campaigns and hosting visits to Baltimore by dignitaries, embassy officials and ship representatives. Each year we host officials from the embassies in Washington to Sail Baltimore’s Attaché Day, an opportunity for the military attachés, the decision makers, to visit our fine city and experience what it has to offer.
Sail Baltimore’s role is an all-encompassing one for visiting ships. Once we learn of a ship’s intentions to visit our city, Sail Baltimore organizes the ship visit from beginning to end. We coordinate planning meetings, act as a liaison with the embassy, arrange docking facilities for the ship, ship services, logistics arrangements, public relations, media releases, welcoming ceremonies, security briefings, official protocol visits, sporting events, tours, discounts to local attractions and hospitality for the captain, officers, cadets and crew. Moreover, by drawing ships’ crew, tourists and residents to downtown Baltimore during all seasons of the year, Sail Baltimore provides a significant economic impact to the area. During a typical year, more than 100,000 visitors take part in Sail Baltimore’s offerings, providing approximately $5 million to the local economy.
The Learn the Ropes component of Sail Baltimore’s visiting ships program is aimed at providing the youth of the community with a unique experience to encourage learning, international cultural exchange and understanding. We provide a means for young people to explore other areas of the world without leaving their own community. Through Sail Baltimore, children climb aboard visiting ships from around the world for special hands-on tours, providing them the opportunity to interact with crewmembers from other countries, learn about maritime technologies, history, geography, career alternatives and more. A workbook is provided to the children to further educate them about ships, sailing, geography, international cultures, maritime careers and more. Participants have included youth from the Police Athletic League, Head Start, Sea Cadets, community centers, day camps and school children.
Over the past thirty years, Sail Baltimore has welcomed more than 400 vessels and produced or co-produced more than 35 maritime events. Since its inception, we estimate that Sail Baltimore’s efforts have brought more than 5 million visitors and over $200 million into Baltimore’s economy.
In addition to our ongoing program of visiting ships, Sail Baltimore has also honored significant historic events for our country, state and city through large gatherings of ships. During Sail Baltimore’s OpSail Baltimore 2000 international tall ship event, more than 1.5 million visitors came to our city with an economic impact of more than $100 million. In addition to these large-scale events, Sail Baltimore is a partner in producing annual maritime events including the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, the Baltimore Parade of Lighted Boats.
Organization and Funding
Sail Baltimore operates with a volunteer board of directors and one Executive Director. We also depend on numerous volunteers from outside the board to act in various capacities, such as ship liaisons, hospitality providers, logistics assistance, etc. Sail Baltimore supports its programs mostly through corporate and individual donors, both cash and in-kind, and some public funding. We continue to seek new and continuing contributors in support of our valuable community programs.