Slick new water taxis make a statement in Baltimore

Maritime Applied Physics Corp. (MAPC), Baltimore, recently delivered the first of what will be a new fleet of 10 water taxis for the city. The 55’×12’9″×3’1″ Key’s Anthem is a 49-passenger vessel that pays homage to the past while embracing the future.

Baltimore’s gritty waterfront has been undergoing a slow transformation since the 1980s. Now, sportswear maven Kevin Plank of Under Armour has added the deep pockets of his Sagamore Ventures to the effort.

Sagamore acquired Harbor Boating, operators of the city’s current water taxi fleet, in August and promptly began an ambitious newbuild program. The first boat, Key’s Anthem, debuted during Fleet Week in October and marks a departure from the simple pontoon boats that comprise the current fleet. Five new boats will be in the water by the end of next year.

MAPC is a 30-year-old employee-owned research and development company best known for its advanced hulls, unmanned marine and land vehicles, and motion compensated land, air, and marine vehicle launch and recovery systems. The water taxi project is its first commercial venture.

Nathan Baugher, program manager for the water taxis, recalled the original meetings with Kevin Plank where he outlined his vision for the boats.

“He told me to go and spend time at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and study the hull forms of the traditional deadrise bay-built boats,” said Baugher, who has a degree in sculpture. His team set about designing the iconic boat Plank requested. MAPC created an aluminum water taxi with a raised wheelhouse and round stern referencing the “Hooper’s Island draketail,” a boat used by Maryland watermen for crabbing and harvesting oysters.

Unlike the pontoon boats, the new boats will load from the midship with wheelchair ramps. There is stowage for eight bicycles onboard. Seating is arranged on a continuous bench along the hull, including along the curved stern. The flooring is Plastdek, a man-made, repairable material made to mimic a wooden deck.

The new boats will evolve as the 10-boat order progresses, according to Baugher. Key’s Anthem is powered by twin Beta Marine diesel engines but future boats will be diesel-electric hybrids. The Beta engines are rated at just 38-hp each. Baugher said this would provide a fuel-efficient propulsion system. “The area of operations for the water taxis is within a 6-knots at all times speed zone, and the vessels must be able to run 18 hours a day,” said Baugher. “The lower horsepower engines will save a lot of fuel and still make 8.5 knots.”

ZF 25A 2.71:1 reduction gears turn 18″×12″ bronze 4-bladed props. There is no generator onboard. Ship’s service power is supplied by two Balmer 24 VDC alternators.

The raised pilothouse features two captain’s chairs, one adjustable for young riders to climb into so they can get a look at the helm. Steering is provided by SeaStar Optimus electronic power steering. Navigational equipment is a Garmin GPSMAP 721.

When it came to the exterior look of the boat, Plank wanted something that would make a statement. So the MAPC team came up with a black hull with a boot stripe based on the Maryland flag. The topcoat is an engineered coating developed for the aeronautical industry. Baugher said it will be more maintainable than traditional gel coat and will not fade. The windows are designed to slide open and stow in the headlong for open-air travel.

Sagamore is planning to expand the reach of the water taxi to add commuter service into the city. With this in mind, the boats will have onboard Wi-Fi and GPS tracking. Sagamore is working in partnership with Uber to add on-demand water taxi service in the future.

About the author

Kathy Bergren Smith

Kathy Bergren Smith has been a correspondent with WorkBoat since 2002. She is also a writer and photographer for the Port of Baltimore Magazine covering shipping and port activities. Smith, also a noted commercial and fine art photographer, resides in Annapolis, Md.

3 Comments

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      I’m sure you have a point, but what is it? A different company, who is out of business operated a completely different style hull and flipped because of reckless operation……absolutely no connection to this story.

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    I’m curious; what will the crew complement be? Also, being a relatively long narrow hull that may work in tight spaces, was an electric bow thruster included or considered?

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