There is quite an ensemble of naval ships in Boston from the very serious and rather threatening Norwegian battle ships to the very overwhelming presence of the U.S.S. Wasp, an aircraft carrier that doubles as a support vessel for marine amphibious landings.
They are all here to do honor to the U.S.S. Constitution and to make special remembrance on the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812. Even the Canadians (who whooped us in that war which is still embarrassing) brought their war ships.
The Eagle is here to bring to attention the role of the Coast Guard during that decisive conflict. The Revenue Cutters (of which the CGRC Massachusetts out of Newburyport was the first) found themselves being converted into ships of interdiction and in many cases in full fledged battle. I encourage you to attend the Custom House First Friday Friends Social in which this very topic will be presented! Of course, you must be a member or be invited by a member to get in. If not a member, go find a member and make them invite you!
I came in from the North Station and had an excellent side view of the Constitution and of the Eagle. When I came around the corner onto the Charlestown Shipyard, you could tell that the Coast Guard ship sparkled. Not only that but I searched long and hard to find any fat on some of the cadets! They were as sharp as the ship!
I was pleased to be greeted by the crew as I boarded. The first thing you see is the profusion of ropes and cables strung everywhere. Sailors stood around who offered to answer any questions which was great to know but the plaques everywhere seemed to do the job.
The ships wheel is way in the back and I am amazed that the front of the ship is not very clearly seen. Obviously, the crew must assist in some way to steer – you don’t fully realize the enormous size of the ship until you are on board! Presidents from Harry S. Truman to more recent office holders have held fast to that wheel.
I was going to make a snide comment on how fine Nazi engineering was, but thought better of it as I was surrounded by German tourists!
The ship itself was launched June 13th, 1936 as the Segelschulschiff (training ship) Horst Wessel from the shipyard of Blohm & Voss. She was actually one of five training sailing ships launched at that time. (You need a lot of sailors if you want to rule the world!) These five ships are called the five sisters. Each ship was seized and given to different nations – if you insist on asking, here they are – one went to Russia, one to the Ukraine, another to Portugal, And a fourth to Romania. One, the Gorch Fock was sunk during the war and Germany has rebuilt a replica in 1958 and now uses it to train sailors in the Krieg marine as the Gorch Fock II.
The ship itself is 295 feet long and the Mast height is an impressive 147 plus feet high over head! I can just imagine what these new cadets feel as they climb a ratline (pronounced ‘ratlin’) to the crows nest! Everywhere is a confusing array of lines, knots and belay pins. A beautiful eagle is at the front of the ship.
I keep mentioning these plaques but they are extremely helpful. One of the important things the City of Newburyport wants to do is have more interpretive signage. Well, it is needed. It made the tour of the Eagle twice as informative as otherwise.
Here is just one example:
Be sure to get down to Boston and see this – believe it or not the crowds aren’t bad.