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Constellation to move from Inner Harbor to undergo repairs

The Constellation will be moved from its location in Baltimore's Inner Harbor for four months this winter to undergo more than $2 million in repairs — including $750,000 to fix rotting in its hull.

The city Board of Estimates, which oversees spending in Baltimore, voted to approve the $750,000 expenditure for the ship, which has been docked in the harbor for almost 60 years. Money for the repairs comes from general obligation bonds approved by city voters in 2012.

The ship will be dry-docked at the U.S. Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay from Oct. 20 to Feb. 20 for the repairs, said Christopher Rowsom, director of Historic Ships in Baltimore. In all, the Constellation will undergo about $2.1 million in repairs to also fix the ship's spars and rigging. The rest of the money will come from state funds and private fundraising, Rowsom said.

The repairs will address rotting along a 4,000-square-foot portion of the laminated hull planking, which was installed during the ship's renovation in the late 1990s. The planking provides structural strength to the ship and protects its historic features, according to the mayor's office.

The Constellation is about 160 years old, the last all-sail ship built by the U.S. Navy. It provides a large example of Chesapeake Bay shipbuilding, Rowsom said. The vessel was used just before the Civil War to capture slave ships off the African coast, where it was able to bring 700 men, women and children to safe harbor in Liberia.

The ship is open daily for tours. Tickets, which cost up to $18 for adults, can be purchased for tours aboard the fleet of historic ships in the harbor.

"The ship is a beautiful object, but what I think people are most interested in is the stories of the people who served aboard," Rowsom said. "Our visitors get an amazing look at what life was like."

ywenger@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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