Former Sun editor Ernie Imhoff, author of Good Shipmates, about the rescue and restoration of the World War II Liberty ship John W. Brown, says the ship will make a rare stop at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, where more visitors can get a tour of this almost-last-of-its-kind vessel.

  • The S.S. John W. Brown, Baltimore’s still operating World War II museum ship, will visit the city’s Inner Harbor from Thursday July 31 to Sunday August 3 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her rescue and subsequent second sailing career. 
            A fixture in Baltimore since 1988, the Brown nevertheless remains an unknown quantity to many Marylanders because of her location in industrial Canton. You can get a  close-up at the Inner Harbor.
            The Brown will be open to the public at the West Wall of the Inner Harbor. Visiting hours are listed below. The ship’s company, all volunteers, will greet visitors at key spots, explain the ship and help them follow blue arrows painted on deck in self-guided tours of the entire ship.
            The 441-foot Liberty ship carried troops and cargo in the European Theater of World War II from 1942 to 1945 and landed soldiers in the 1944 invasion of Southern France. Her convoys often came under attack, ships were torpedoed near her, but the lucky Brown survived intact.  
            On her first trip in 1942, without convoy and to avoid U-boats, the Brown sailed alone from the East Coast through the Panama Canal, into the Pacific Ocean, past Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope and into the Persian Gulf to Iran where she unloaded goods for wartime ally Soviet Union.
          She was a stationary high school maritime ship in the East River and then the Hudson River in New York City after the war and was in a reserve fleet for five years before rescued by Marylanders in 1988.
           Visitors can see the engine room, museums to the merchant marine that ran the ship, the U.S. Navy Armed Guard that protected her and the shipbuilders who made her at Bethlehem Fairfield in 42 days in 1942. 
            The vessel is owned by Project Liberty Ship, Inc., (PLS) a nonprofit group of spirited veteran seamen and landlubbers who made the Brown a lucky ship once again. They pulled the vessel out of the National Reserve Fleet in the James River, Fort Eustis, VA. and saved her from probable breakup as was the fate of most of her sister ships. Of 2,710 Liberty ships built, only the Brown and the Jeremiah O’Brien in San Francisco still sail. 
             The Baltimore crew worked for three years on the ship at her new home, Pier One, Clinton Street, Canton, East Baltimore, to revive her original triple expansion steam engine and make her presentable again. She resumed sailing in 1991. She has made more than 75 voyages since then on the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean and Great Lakes. 
              The ship is owned by her 2,100 members, some of whom have worked a total of 1.3 million hours on the ship to maintain her and more hours off the ship to promote and manage her. Donations will be requested to defray expenses.
               The shipmates have raised and spent more than $15 million for the many items needed to maintain the ship. The 66-year-old ship has been in drydock several times to insert 20,000 new rivets. The Brown needs one entire barrel of oil to travel one mile and run auxiliaries.
                In 2000, the old steamship travelled 5,200 miles in the Atlantic, St Lawrence Seaway, Lakes Ontario and Erie and associated waterways in its Great Lakes trip which attracted 35,000 visitors. Top speed is 11 knots, about 13 miles an hour.
                The ship has attracted more than 200,000 visitors including 13,000 visitors last year on her Yankee Adventure trip; she stopped at Cape Cod, Portland, ME and Boston. She has visited 20 Atlantic Ports and eight ports in the Great Lakes since 1991.
              The ship’s open hours at the Inner Harbor July 31-August 3 are as follows:
             Thursday July 31: from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (last visitor off at 2:30 p.m.) and from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. (last visitor off at 9 p.m.)
             Friday August 1: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (last visitor off at 3 p.m.) and from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. (last visitor off at 9 p.m.)
              Saturday August 2: from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last visitor off at 5 p.m.)
              Sunday August 3: from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last visitor off at 6 p.m.).
              Visitors can test their sea legs on the Brown when she sails on the Chesapeake Bay later this year. She departs from the Passenger Terminal at South Locust Point on two six-hour Saturday Living History cruises at 10 a.m. September 6 and 10 a.m. October 4.
              She will take veterans and their guests on her annual two-hour Veterans Week cruise in Baltimore Harbor at 10 a.m. Saturday November 8.
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