The USCG Eagle is a 21, 350 square foot sailing Barque with three masts. She is the only commissioned sailing ship in the U.S. maritime service that is still active. She is also one of five of such Training Barques in the entire world. The other four include: MIRCEA of Romania, SAGRES II of Portugal, GORCH FOCK of Germany, and TOVARICH of Russia.
Her name, The Eagle, goes back to 1792, when the first Eagle was commissioned. That was two years after the Revenue Marine was formed. The Revenue Marine is today the Coast Guard’s forerunner. Today’s Eagle, is the seventh to bear the name. She was built in 1936 by the Blohm & Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany. She was created to serve as a vessel for German Naval Cadets. Originally, she was named the Horst Wessel and then after World War II, was taken by the United States as a war prize and named the Eagle on May 15, 1946 and went into service for the U.S. Coast Guard. She sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany to New London, Connecticut.
The Eagle is often considered a “seagoing school” and classroom. It houses 175 cadets and the instructors from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. On the decks of the Eagle, is where the men and women of the Coast Guard learn lessons and get their first taste of sea life. This is how they develop experience with and respect for the environment that they will spend years of their life in. The cadets are challenged and brought to their limits and they learn to face and overcome their fears.
On the Eagle, the men and women in training are given a chance to have hands-on experience with the things they learn in the classrooms. They can take what they learned about navigating a ship and then actually apply it the same day. When they are upper-class cadets, they can do what junior officers do and as lower-class cadets, they take positions that enlisted crew usually take. One duty includes watching the helm at the huge wood and brass wheels that are used to steer the vessel. Cadets also handle more than 20,000 square feet of sail and also 5 miles of rigging. Cadets need to learn the name and function of each line because more than 200 of them are used to coordinate and maneuver the ship.
The Eagle can easily take up the job that it was made for. Her hull is built of steel that is four-tenths of an inch thick. She has two full length steel decks that have a platform deck below and also a raised quarterdeck and forecastle. The weatherdecks are made of steel covered with three-inch-thick teak.
The Eagle rests in a pier at the Coast Guard Academy on the Thames River. Originally, the Academy was founded in 1876 and had a class of only nine students aboard the Revenue Cutter Dobbin. However, a permanent Academy was built in 1932 on the land that was donated by the New London community. After that, enrollment went up to about 700 women and men and all of them, at some point of their Coast Guard career, sail on America’s only functional duty square rigger.
Some facts of the Eagle are the following:
- Length: 295 feet
- Maximum Speed: 11-16 knots (under full sail)
- Maximum Range: 5,450 miles
- Training Complement: 12 Officers, 38 crew, 150 cadets (average)
- Major Missions: Training vessel for Coast Guard Academy Cadets
- Commissioned: May 15, 1946