The BAP Union passes under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Photo by David Sites

Peruvian Navy’s Tall Ship Docks in Baltimore, Bringing Deck Tours, Peruvian Culture

This weekend, Baltimore plays host to the incredible BAP Union, a 379-foot, four-masted flagship vessel and training ship of the Peruvian Navy. The steel-hulled barque carries a crew of 250 officers and trainees and is currently undertaking a circumnavigation to showcase Peruvian culture. Baltimore is the seventeenth stop, and the crew is fresh off a transatlantic crossing after enjoying time in Cadiz, Spain.

The ship attracted a lot of attention coming up the Bay. The mast height is 175.6 feet, while the Bay Bridge and the Key Bridge each have a clearance of about 185 feet. And as they approached port, the ship’s crew climbed the rigging to dizzying heights above the water. In this Instagram video, you can see the trip from the sailors’ perpective:

The Union was commissioned in 2016, designed to honor the legacy of the 1865 corvette Huascar, which was the flagship of the Peruvian Navy in the 1800s. But instead of acting as a warship, the Union is a sign of peace and cultural outreach. The Union operates as both a training vessel and an ambassador for Peru, with cadets taking on the role of diplomatic hosts and share Peruvian culture with the rest of the world. The Union is the largest South American training vessel.

The Union set sail on June 17, 2023, from Callao Naval Base and began its circumnavigation with a plan of reaching 20 ports and 16 countries in a 311-day, 34,216-nautical mile adventure. Her trip has taken her through the world’s greatest bodies of water, including three oceans, the Gulf of Aden, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea, and now the Chesapeake Bay.

On the water, she’s a sight to be seen. She carries over 36,000 square feet of canvas and her foremast is taller than an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

“That she’s chosen Baltimore is a real honor for us,” says Nan Nawrocki, Sail Baltimore’s executive director and one of the architects of Union’s visit. “We’re the closest deep water port to Washington, D.C. These ships can’t get up into D.C. at all. They can’t get under the bridges, and the water isn’t deep enough.” The trip is a chance for the ship’s crew of cadets to experience the Naval Academy, the nation’s capital, and much more.

The Peruvian embassy is helping coordinate the event, bringing in a parade of equine cultural attaches, among other things.

“Beginning at 11am on Saturday, we’ll have music, the Naval Academy Band, Peruvian musicians and dancers, and if the weather cooperates, a full horse parade,” says Nawrocki, who is helping coordinate free deck tours of the ship. She and Sail Baltimore work endlessly to bring in the ships and help with logistics throughout the year, including Fleet Week.

“Nobody’s gotten a chance to see her yet,” says Nawrocki. “This is a really special event for all of us.”

The Union is now docked along the western wall of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (along Light Street) and will be open for visits beginning at 1pm on Saturday, March 2. Her departure is set for March 6, when she’ll head to Florida to begin the final leg of her journey home.

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