Editor’s note: Occasionally at OceanLines, we cover one or another of the truly unique forms of passagemaking. In this case, we introduce you to (or re-introduce, as many of you already know her) the U.S.C.G. Cutter Eagle, a 295-foot, three-masted steel barque. The Eagle experience is both unique and important for the future leaders of the Coast Guard. It gives them a chance to be as close to the raw ocean as possible, an experience that will serve them well when they risk life and limb to save those of us in distress on the sea. Eagle called on Portland, Maine recently and our correspondent Patricia Allen went aboard for a media familiarization cruise. You can see more of her photos of the Eagle here. Here is her report.
by Patricia K. Allen
USCGC Eagle in Portland Harbor August 2009 – Photo Courtesy of Patricia K. Allen, All Rights Reserved
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle is “America’s Tall Ship.” Originally built by the German Navy in 1936, and commissioned by Adolph Hitler as the Horst Wessel on June 13, 1936, the Eagle changed hands as a result of war reparations, and was commissioned into the U.S.C.G. on May 14, 1946. Well concealed today are the signs of her past – Nazi swastikas beneath the main teak deck and weather deck bulkheads, under layers and layers of white paint. She is currently the only commissioned sailing vessel sporting the Stars and Stripes.
Ratlines Running Aloft Aboard USCGC Eagle in Portland Harbor — Photo Courtesy of Patricia K. Allen, All Rights Reserved
The Eagle now serves as a training ship for future Coast Guard officers. She is home for a permanent crew of six officers and 50 enlisted personnel. Training is provided for up to 150 cadets and “swabs – students at the Academy during the summer prior to their freshman year,” and she routinely sails with more than 230 hands on board. The commanding officer is U.S.C.G. Captain Eric Jones. As a barque (or bark), Eagle’s fore and main masts carry square sails, while her mizzen mast carries fore-and-aft sails, a rigging enhancement that enabled sailing ships to keep the advantages of the square sails when before the wind but also maneuver somewhat closer to the winds when heading upwind.
USCG Cadets Get it Done the Old Fashioned Way Aboard USCGC Eagle – Photo Courtesy of Patricia K. Allen, All Rights Reserved
According to Lt. Commander Mike Putlock, one of Eagle’s six commissioned officers, the tall ship typically sails at 10 knots under power, and 17 knots under full sail. When asked how long it takes new crew members to gain their “sea legs,” LCDR Putlock replied that it “depends on the person,” but usually takes one day. Swab John Mack agreed with LCDR Putlock, adding that many of those new to the Eagle also suffer from seasickness. For this reason, medications are offered, but are optional. He disclosed that he opted in, and was thankful based on what he witnessed.
The daily routine onboard begins with 0600 reveille, followed by breakfast and a military training period. The academic day begins at 0800 and ends at 1540, followed by the evening meal, more training, and then an evening study hour. Taps sounds at 2200, with lights out at 2400. On Saturdays, reveille is at 0630, followed by more military training from 0800 to 1200, after which liberty is granted. Sundays include religious services, and following the evening meal, the study period begins again.
Ship’s Bell Aboard USCGC Eagle Alongside at Portland — Photo Courtesy of Patricia K. Allen, All Rights Reserved
or each crew member, the time aboard is different. The swabs typically sail for six weeks before entering the academy. This summer’s cruise began April 20, and arrives in New London, Conn. on August 14th. This summer, The Eagle set sail for Rota, Spain on April 20th. Ports included Monaco, and Cassis, France, Bermuda, Charleston, S.C., Boston, Mass., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Rockland and then Portland, ME, Portsmouth, N.H., and home in New London August 14th.
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