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Coast Guard tall ship ‘Eagle’ arrives in Key West

The ship stands out wherever it goes.

But in little Key West, when the 295 foot US Coast Guard Cutter Eagle – dubbed ‘America’s Tall Ship’ – arriving in Mallory Square this week, the giant ship seemed to rule the island’s waterfront.

The size alone stopped passers-by in their tracks to check out the barque, which means it has three masts and is square-rigged. Free tours of the majestic tall ship, built in 1936, are offered to the public on Saturday and Sunday 25 and 26 June.

You can stroll the teak decks, marvel at the vast sails and rigging, and take in the ocean views instead Mallorywhere people celebrate sunset every night.

Military members, active and retired, as well as first responders can visit the Eagle from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on both days. The public is welcome from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. No reservation is necessary.

Worth your time, locals say.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Abe Conn, of Sugarloaf Key, who retired from the military after a 30-year career as a colonel. He was on the Eagle at 5 a.m. Thursday when the ship came ashore.

The Coast Guard took a group of guests offshore to board the Eagle where it was anchored, Conn said.

The Eagle is the United States Army’s only active-duty sailing ship and the largest US-flagged tall ship, with 23 sails, a total sail area of ​​22,227 square feet. Its tallest mast is 150 feet, about the height of a 15-story building, the Coast Guard said.

On Friday, the Eagle served as the backdrop for a change of command ceremony in Mallory Square. Captain Jessica Rozzi-Ochs has been named commanding officer of the Eagle, succeeding Captain Michael Turdo.

Rozzi-Ochs is the Eagle’s 30th skipper and the first woman to take the helm.

“Thank you for your inspiration and mentorship and for sharing your guidance and counsel as I embark on this incredible journey,” Rozzi-Ochs told commanders who came before her.

The Eagle is scheduled to leave Key West on Monday. Next stop is Hamilton, Bermuda, then back to her home port of New London, Connecticut.

What is the story of the Eagle?

The ship was built in Germany in 1936 and commissioned as Horst Wessel the same year, according to the Coast Guard Academy website. She was one of three sailing training ships operated by the German Navy before World War II. But the United States then took the ship for repair at the end of the war and named it the Eagle.

In 1946, a Coast Guard crew, aided by German crew members still on board, sailed the tall ship from Bremerhaven in New London, Connecticut, which is since her home port.

“The Eagle returned to Brermerhaven for the first time since World War II in the summer of 2005, to an enthusiastic reception,” according to the Coast Guard’s program for Friday’s change of command ceremony.

With a steel hull and two full-length steel decks, the Eagle represents “centuries of development in the art of shipbuilding,” says the Coast Guard.

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The public can tour the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, known as “America’s Tall Ship,” June 25-26, 2022, in Key West. Provided by the Coast Guard

What is the Eagle for?

The Coast Guard trains cadets and officer candidates on the Eagle.

A crew of eight officers and 50 enlisted men tends to the ship year-round. Up to 150 cadets and officer candidates can be trained at the same time, each having to learn how to operate the more than 200 lines that control the sails.

But the ship is also considered the flagship of the maritime branch of the armed forces. It’s a floating public relations tool with a comprehensive national calling program, where the public is invited to make visits. The Eagle also travels to other countries as a “goodwill ambassador for U.S. diplomatic relations,” the Coast Guard said.

Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Harry S. Truman spent time aboard the Eagle.

How can I find out more about the Eagle?

The Coast Guard Academy website has several pages detailing the history and current mission of the Eagle and the tall ship has a active facebook page with his Instagram account.

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At 295 feet long, the Eagle is the tallest sailing ship to beat the stars and stripes, the US Coast Guard said. Provided by the Coast Guard

The Eagle posted a video from Friday change of command ceremony in Key West on his Facebook page and shares stopovers and event photos.

This story was originally published June 25, 2022 4:20 p.m.

Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was on the staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune which in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.