The return of the Eagle

It’s funny how stories sometimes come back at you out of nowhere. You never know where they’re going to turn up.

Last weekend, my husband and I planned to go to the Saturday night Orioles game against the Yankees.

Hey! I've seen that tall ship somewhere before.

We got to the ticket window about an hour before game time and were stunned to find out that they didn’t have any two seats together left anywhere in the ballpark! They only had single tickets and standing-room-only. (And I am too short for SRO!)

So we decided to walk over to the Inner Harbor for dinner and then find a bar to watch the game.

As soon as we made it to the harbor, we couldn’t help but notice an amazing tall ship.

“Hmmm,” I said. “That looks like the Coast Guard tall ship I rode on a few years ago.”

Once we settled into our seats outside at Tir Na Nog, we got a better view of the ship. And it turns out I was right.

Back in 2003, I met the Eagle out in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay and rode in to the Naval Academy, where she was making a visit. The Eagle was claimed from the Germans as a war prize from World War II and is used for training at the Coast Guard Academy.

I couldn’t believe I remembered a story from seven years ago. Anyway, I share it with you now, just for kicks. It’s not perfect, but it’s not too bad. Enjoy.

The Eagle, Coast Guard’s tall ship, visits Annapolis

By PAMELA WOOD

Staff Writer


ABOARD THE COAST GUARD BARQUE EAGLE — Petty Officer 1st Class Anthony Dowd got a little itchy at his Coast Guard desk job in Baltimore.
So the Arnold resident sought a bit of adventure on the high seas — and found it aboard the Eagle.

“It’s one of the best experiences you can have,” he said as the tall ship cruised up the Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis yesterday. “It’s a lot different from the other Coast Guard ships.”

Squinting in the bright midmorning sun, Petty Officer Dowd said he enjoys teaching the ways of the 67-year-old barque to Coast Guard Academy cadets, who spend a week aboard it during their first summer at the academy.

Unlike the Coast Guard speedboats used to patrol harbors and run down drug dealers, the Eagle is a football-field-size ship with massive masts and sails that evoke images of another era of shipbuilding.

With masts soaring 147 feet into the air, it is the largest tall ship that flies the stars and stripes — a point of pride for Coast Guard crews, who often are overshadowed by the other military services.

The Eagle began its service in 1936 as the Horst Wessel, a German training ship for young Nazi sailors, and later served as a cargo ship during World War II. The United States claimed the ship as a war prize in 1945.

Today, the 50-member Eagle crew, supplemented by academy cadets and officer candidates, manages more than 22,000 square feet of sails and five miles of rigging all by hand.

Even seemingly simple tasks require precise teamwork, such as when the crew unfurled a one of 23 sails as the cutter motored into the Naval Academy yesterday morning.

A dozen mostly teen-age cadets climbed up the rigging, navigating their way into precarious positions along the beams high above the deck. Hundreds of visitors along for the ride — and dozens more on sailboats and powerboats nearby — peered up as the cadets maneuvered into place.

It was only when they got into position that the academy cadets could hook themselves in place with a safety harness. Then there were several minutes of tussling and adjusting the sail until they finally got it into position for a perfect unfurling.

The teamwork impressed Kevin Callahan of Arnold, who volunteers with Annapolis council of the Navy League.

“It sure makes you get a warm, fuzzy feeling,” he said.

And the academy cadets climbing about the lines have only been in the Coast Guard for a few weeks. Yesterday was their fifth day aboard any Coast Guard ship.

“Most of these guys are straight out of high school,” said Petty Officer Dowd, an 11-year Coast Guard veteran completing his second tour aboard the Eagle.

Growing up in Waldorf, Coast Guard Academy Cadet 4th Class Katie Smith was familiar with the water. But she was no waterbug or maritime expert when she arrived on the Eagle last week. She said climbing and maneuvering high in the air takes a bit of getting used to.

“It’s really scary, but its fun,” said Cadet Smith, who graduated from Westlake High School nine weeks ago.

For Cadet Smith and the other swabs, a week aboard the Eagle is a chance to test their mettle at sea.

After spending the weekend at the Naval Academy, Cadet Smith and the other freshmen, called “swabs,” will return to the academy in New London, Conn. They’ll be replaced by another group of academy freshmen and later officer candidates will take their turn.

But today and tomorrow will be reserved for regular folks, as the Eagle crew will offer tours of the ship, which is nearly as large as a football field.

The ship has a special magic about it, something that grabbed at Leslie Staples of Alexandria, Va.

An avid sailor, she jumped at the “just awesome” opportunity to take a three-hour ride into Annapolis aboard the Eagle yesterday.

But her 10-year-old son Ryan was more concerned about the Eagle accidentally smacking the Bay Bridge than the ship’s impressive history.

“It’s not going to fit,” he declared to his mom.

But the Eagle gracefully cruised under the bridge with about 40 feet to spare, making a believer out of the boy.

pwood@capitalgazette.com


Published 08/09/03, Copyright © 2010 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
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