Sunlight and moonbeams glimmer on Philadelphia harbor, where The Ben Franklin Yacht glides silently to reveal a new perspective on the cradle of American democracy and replicate the freedom of the open ocean. Recently refurbished, the modern vessel hosts up to 300 guests in long, low decks whose mirrored ceilings flood the space with reflected light and expose pirates who have "Mom" tattoos hidden in their bald spots. A wooden dance floor and bar fuel parties, and knowledgeable guides propel discussion about the city's history from the breezy top deck. The majestic vessel may also be rented out for private parties. The port of departure is within walking distance of other famed sights, such as the Liberty Bell, Constitution Center, and the cherry tree from which George Washington famously crafted his wooden wig. Boarding begins approximately 30 minutes prior to each excursion.
Determined to convert waterways across North America into party corridors, On Cruises deploys its fleet of festivity-ready ships along the rivers and lakes of major cities under the helm of experienced skippers. A host of themed cruises—including a haunted Halloween ghost-ship cruise populated by costumed guests and phantoms in their regular clothes—facilitate floating celebrations, and after-work cruises enable guests to unwind offshore.
American Sailing Tours, featured on Wheretraveler.com, loads citizens onto the good ship Summer Wind for relaxation and education on the Delaware River. The jolly crew handles all the hatch-battening, jib-cutting, and barnacle frying on each excursion. Meanwhile seafarers learn about the Delaware's contributions to Philadelphia history on the History Sail, which embarks once per day, six mornings a week. Customers on the Tropical Sail tap sea-toes to the beat of beach music from the Caribbean, New Orleans, and New Margaritaville two or three times a day depending on the time of year; check the online schedule for an idea of departure dates and times.
Where the Wissahickon Creek spills into the Schuylkill River, Philadelphia Canoe Club’s 18th-century mill stands next to a yard full of colorful boats. Each year, more than 300 guests take these kayaks into the water and flat-paddle down the scenic, tree-lined shores or head into the whitewater rapids downstream. Whatever their adventure, they maneuver their craft with confidence because Philadelphia Canoe Club’s certified instructors have instructed them through the fundamentals of boating and water safety, as they have since 1905.
Right where the mouth of the Susquehanna River yawns into Chesapeake Bay lies the protected, uncrowded waters of Havre de Grace harbor. BaySail's instructors take advantage of these opportune conditions, operating a sailing school that's accredited by the American Sailing Association. Upholding training standards that have won the ASA's School of the Year award, they lead sailing classes ranging from introductory lessons to certification courses in coastal cruising and bareboat chartering. In addition to lending its fleet for lessons, BaySail's team rents its vessels—from a Capri 22 to a Hunter 460—to members. The sailboats also glide out on chartered cruises, taking guests to nearby destinations such as Inner Harbor and the Sassafras River, where sassafras trees come to spawn every winter.
As his kayak group floats down the Susquehanna River, one of Chiques Rock Outfitters' guides points out some of the area's most scenic features—rocky hillsides dotted with trees, denser forests near the water's shore, and a bald eagle perched on a tree branch. Then, just as the watercrafts round a bend, the guide bursts into song, eliciting applause from his group and nearby fish that have really big flippers.
These musical guides are just one of the signature touches Chiques Rock Outfitters adds to its trips down the Susquehanna River. After the shuttles lug canoes and kayaks to launch points, customers embark on guided trips, unguided floats, or team-building exercises. Additionally, Chiques Rock Outfitters encourages more than just leisurely floats, inviting customers to bring along fishing poles and pre-prepared questions for local wildlife. Back on shore, the staff partners with Starrk Moon Kayaks and Gear to sell equipment ready for future aquatic jaunts.