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Eagle Sail Training

and the Maritime Education Initiative

At exactly 1630 hours on 7 July last year–one bell of the First Dog Watch

(more to the point) High Water Slack in New York ‘s East River- the Coast Guard ‘s training bark Eagle cast off her moorings at Pier 17,

South Street Seaport, and set sail fo r Boston. It was the seventh week of Eagle’s regu lar summer program of sail tra ining fo r cadets of the Coast Guard Academy.

And it was also to be a passage linking two of the greatest gatherings of

the world ‘s sail training vessels in history-Operation Sail 1992, and Sai l Boston 1992.

 Eagle was carrying several special passengers: New York high school students Nicole Scott of Chestnut Ridge and Jonathan Pappas of Seaford,

and teachers Leonard London of Tappan and Arlene Rhodes of Galway.

The two students and teachers had been selected by the New York State Imaginati on Celebrations with the NMHS;

and the passenger list also included Walter Cronkite, chairman of the NMHS Maritime Education Initiati ve, and his wife, Betsy.

Nicole and Jonathan had been winners in a writing contest with the theme “Seeking New Horizons,”

 and there were to be many new hori zons for them as Eagle sailed past Ambrose Tower and made her way eastward along

the south shore of Long Island, through Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds,

and out into the Gulf of Maine for an exhil arating day of hard sailing on a fresh

southeasterly breeze before leading the grand Parade of Sail intoBostonHarboron l IJuly.

 lt wou ldbe hard to imagine a more apt illustration of an encounter with “the real thing,” as Walter Cronkite put it in Sea History 61.

In the case of Eagle, of course, the”real thing” is not a historical artifact but a modern sail training ship.

Built at Hamburg in 1936 as a training ship for the Navy of the Third Reich, Eagle incorporates sailing technology of the last commercial square-ri ggers built as the age of sail died out.

In her 46-year career in the Coast Guard, she has been maintained in top condition,

with habitability, safety, nav igation systems, and machinery upgraded to modern standards.

Her rig and the way she is handled have remained virtually unchanged.

Histori cal awareness is not a major factor in the Coast Guard’s rationale for continuing to support a program of deepwater sail training for its future offi cers;

but it could be argued that the service’s strong commitment to sustaining

the Eagle program refl ects an awareness that the fundamentals of seafaring have changed relatively little over the centuries.

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