Some of you who follow my Facebook page know I’m fond of sailing ships, going so far as to post pictures on Sailing Ship Saturdays. I’ll admit I’m a die-hard tall ship fan, going aboard any chance I get. I’ve spent the day sailing on my state’s tall ship, Lady Washington. I’ve walked the decks of the Constitution. But some years ago now, I had the privilege of touring America’s tall ship, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, Eagle.
Eagle is the largest tall ship sailing out of an American port and the only square-rigger in U.S. government service. The steel-hulled barque was built in 1936 in Germany, where she was used as a training ship for Nazi cadets. At the end of the war, she was brought to America as a war prize. According to the Coast Guard site, the German crew actually helped U.S. Coast Guardsmen bring her into her new homeport in New London, Connecticut.
A few things surprised me about her:
- Though she is made of metal, her decks are actually covered with teak.
- The massive wheel that is her helm is nearly as big as I am!
- She can go faster under full sail than she can under more modern power (and her “tank” holds more than 23,000 gallons—how’d you like to fill her up?).
- Her rigging is 6 miles long, and she boast more than 22,000 square feet of sail.
Today, she serves as a training ship again, taking crews from among the 1,000 men and women who attend the Coast Guard Academy each year. Right now, she just made berth at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore for some R&R (renovation and repair). But she generally takes a summer schedule, May through August. If you’re on the East Coast between Boston and Florida, keep a weather eye peeled for tall sails in your neck of the woods next year.
You just might become a fan too.