Coast Guard Cutter Eagle: 'America's Tall Ship' - My9 New Jersey

Coast Guard Cutter Eagle: 'America's Tall Ship'

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

The boatswain's pipe aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle rendered honors, Friday, not for Fox 5 but for some more dignified individual who'd just climbed aboard one of the very few active square riggers still in U.S. government service.

"This was originally built by Nazis," Cadet Elaine Dana said.

Bet you didn't see that coming.

Riveted together in Hamburg, Germany, for the German Navy, the Eagle earned its American citizenship when the United States seized it after World War II.

"We actually took it as a war prize," Dana said.

A 21-year-old from Sacramento, California, Dana spent the last six weeks at sea on the Eagle, taking watches, unfurling sails and learning to read charts, after enrolling at the Coast Guard Academy, in New London, Connecticut, on a whim.

"I need an adventure," she said. "Here we go."

More than five miles of lines bring up and bring down the 23 sails and haul around the 10 yardarms on the Eagle -- labor performed without the help of any machine, exclusively by the humans on board.

"Definitely there's been some rough weather," Dana said.

Sea stories, like fish stories or war stories, likely grow more sensational as the yarn's spinner ages. Cadet Jordan Hart, 19, from Massena, New York, has many years ahead of him to recount and improve upon his tale of clinging to the Eagle in open ocean, surrounded by total darkness, halfway up one of its 147-foot masts.

"It doesn't look that high, but in the middle of the night," Hart said, trailing off.

The spars on the Eagle support 22,000 square feet of sails, which can capture enough wind to move the ship at nearly 20 miles per hour from Miami to Nova Scotia, Canada, and, now, New York.

"It's close quarters," Hart said. "You get to know people a lot better than you did back at school. It definitely gets interesting sometimes."

Closer and more interesting for someone Jordan's size. He plays offensive line for the Coast Guard Academy's football team and struggles to fit in his bunk.

"The racks are maybe 17 inches," Dana said, "so you can't sleep on your side at all."

But six weeks at sea aboard an 80-year-old, 297-foot-long, Nazi-built, American-liberated sailing ship with 134 of your maybe-not-closest-friends isn't all cramped spaces, long watches, and stormy weather.

Sometimes, on a calm and quiet night: "The sky lights up," Hart said. "You can see the entire Milky Way." And learn to steer by it, in your celestial navigation class.

 

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