Water Taxi

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When I was given the option to do a Water Taxi Pub Crawl, I assumed it would be fun and easy, with limited opportunity for stress or peril. But after enduring some less-than-helpful taxi guides, wall-mounted deer heads and multiple run-ins with a two-headed ferret, I am writing a Pub Crawl far different from any of my assumptions. This is my story.

Ed Kane's Water Taxis are small boats that travel the harbor from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, May to October. For $8, you can take unlimited rides on the taxi, which makes 17 landings from Harborplace to Canton. The tickets includes a buttload of coupons which seem like a bargain until you meet the Water Taxi guides. Clearly, they were playing hooky when they should have attended PR 101. Don't bother asking questions about where the boat is going, where it came from or when it will be back. You won't get an audible response.

Tir Na Nog at Landing 2, Harborplace, 12 p.m.

Knowing I had a long afternoon ahead of me, I opted first for the closest and most appealing bar in sight, which was Landing 2 on the map. (Print your own at www.thewatertaxi.com) Stepping off the Water Taxi, I stumbled upon Tir Na Nog -- a large Irish bar cozily nestled inside the Pratt Street Pavilion. In many other Irish pubs in the area, I'd feel comfortable strolling in wearing faded Levi's with Rum and Coke dribbles down the front of them. Not here.

I sat down at the bar and ordered the uber-popular "pint and pie" for $12.95, which includes -- yep -- a pint and a pie. I opted for the chicken and mushroom, mostly because the image of curried lamb brought tears to my eyes. The pie was pretty tasty, but the pint of Guinness overshadowed it a little more than I'd like to admit. Happily plumped, I thought I'd wander through the rest of the pub and see what I could get into.

Large organ pipes hang above the bar and the entire place is decorated with green vines and Irish costumes. I happily lollygagged through the half-full pub until I stumbled upon some decorative decision-making that I definitely would have vetoed: huge, horned deer heads. When you watch deer prancing through open fields, or leaping swiftly over picket fences, they seem like cuddly creatures; ones that you could put on a blanket on your bedroom floor, feed popcorn to and watch The Gilmore Girls with. But one thing I learned from this experience is that they don't all look like Bambi's mother. Add horns as thick as tree-trunks and a seething stare, and you'll have a much more realistic picture.

(If, like me, you are somewhat adverse to the idea of interior decorating that involves decapitation, and would feel just as authentically Irish with an oil painting of a potato, raise your hand.)

Rusty Scupper on Landing 4, 1 p.m.

One definite advantage to putting up with some lip from the Water Taxi operators is the surplus of coupons that come with your day pass. With your ticket, you receive a card with more than 30 coupons for everything from free food to cruises. As I perused the choices, I noticed that I could get some freebies at the Rusty Scupper, so I decided to stop on Landing 4.

It was here that I was first graced by the sight of the super scary man walking around cuddling his two-headed ferret. I will refer back to him later, as we were lucky enough to cross paths numerous times over the course of the trip. The man was wearing all camo, and his hair was in some sort of a Medusa-like, snake weave. But I'll be honest, the get-up worried me much less than the six-legged, two-headed creature snoozing in his arms.

I managed to escape unscathed and made a beeline for the Rusty Scupper. This seaside -- well, more like septic-side -- restaurant and bar is beautifully decorated with sailing boats and large seascapes, and is surrounded by windows overlooking the harbor. The Science Center and the Aquarium are in view while you dine, and there is even a deck on top of the building. With three bars, one of which is on the deck, this place offers great opportunity for drunken calamities and suicidal dives into the harbor. But before you get any bright ideas, I'm 95 percent sure contact with the noxious waters would, at the very least, give you a weird rash. The Scupper is expensive, so booze up somewhere cheaper before you come here.

The Waterfront Hotel at Landing 11, Fells Point, 3:34 p.m.

At this point in my trip, I really wanted to go somewhere that men with two-headed ferrets wouldn't frequent. Fells seemed like a safe place, so I attempted to find my way there with a map that requires the interpretive skills of R2D2. After two hours on the Water Taxi, my butt was starting to hurt more than my ego, so I swallowed my pride and again began nagging the unfriendly employees for help. I'll admit, I was frustrated. I needed directional help at every boat switch, and I could just tell that they totally hated me. After much confusion, I finally stepped off in Fells Point.

The first bar I saw was the Waterfront Hotel, so I stopped in for some much-needed rest and refuel. The name of this bar has always confused me a little, being that it's not a hotel, nor is it technically "waterfront" since it's across the street. Then again, when I'm there I'm usually at least knee-deep in the hair-of-the-dog hangover special. This whopper offers all-you-can drink Mimosas, Bloody Marys, Screwdrivers and PBRs for $8. I never fix something if it isn't broken, so I chose the special, and drank up until I reached the point that I wanted to give my Water Taxi buddies a big ol' hug.

Waterfront does have a food menu, but most people come here for the cocktails -- even during the day for alcoholics' happy time. True, I was there during the day, too, but I was working.

Canton Deckside at Landing 16, Canton Waterfront Park, 4:25 p.m.

To get to Canton from Fells, I knew I had to get another connecting boat, which required further dreaded conversation with the Water Taxi people. To my complete amazement, however, I found a nice guide. He told me exactly how to get where I needed to go, and he made an extra trip to come back for me, instead of leaving me there to be crapped on by seagulls.

I wandered pretty far, just people-watching, 'til I stumbled onto the fairly new Canton Deckside Bar and Grill. This place was in a spookily empty part of Canton, and looked like it had been decorated by someone with multiple personalities. The dining room and bar area were pretty and posh with linen tablecloths, life-sized black and white murals, and modern ceiling fixtures. But as I walked toward the back of the room, suddenly my surroundings were very different. Giant swordfish, cheesy plastic palm trees, grass skirts and beer images covered the walls, and continued out the door and onto the newly refurbished deck. This Jimmy Buffett wet dream dominated in all directions, and I walked away from the place feeling like I had been through an interior decorator extreme face-off.

But the trials of my journey were far from over. Little did I know that in about six seconds I would have my second sighting of the super scary man with the two-headed ferret. I ignored the chill running down my spine and shrugged it off to coincidence, mostly because I didn't want to admit the possibility that he was following me.

Flip's at Landing 14, Captain James Landing, 5:15 p.m.

Finally, I went back two stops to the 14th landing, which exits directly through Captain James Landing. Although I had solid reasons for choosing my previous destinations, after nearly six hours on the Water Taxi, I just wanted to be near my car. Due to a third two-headed ferret sighting (no, I'm not kidding), I decided this was a great time to practice my power walking, and ended up a pretty long way from where the boat docked, at Flip's Bar.

This was by far the least snazzy of the bars I visited, but it was also the cheapest. Duct tape held the bathroom door on, and the customers sitting at the bar looked disturbingly like the cast of Roseanne. The fun thing about Flip's, however, is all the toys there are to play with. There are slot machines, dart boards, a bowling game and even a grand piano. This is perfect for an A.D.D. person such as myself who gets bored sitting at the bar staring wistfully into her too-quickly diminishing brewski. But I wouldn't suggest going there alone -- there's a good chance you'll get stolen by the Truckers of America and end up someplace really scary. Like Iguana Cantina.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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