Looking out our portholes and seeing the USCGC Eagle at dock in Praia do Vitória was a nice surprise. This beautiful tall ship is the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s cadet training vessel. Based near the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, the Eagle spends a good portion of her year at sea. This year she’s spent time in the Baltic, received rapturous crowds in France, and visited Spain and Portugal.
Cadets spend up to six weeks on board learning the ropes and becoming better sailors, leaders, and teammates in the process. According to the Coast Guard: “The conditions and situations that you face under sail can’t be replicated either in a classroom or aboard today’s modern ships. On board Eagle, cadets find themselves suddenly out of their element. Totally dependent on wind, waves and currents, they quickly learn how these forces of nature affect a vessel. They become skilled in ship-handling, decision-making and meeting unexpected challenges. They learn the importance of crew members working together to handle the ship safely.”
Taking advantage of her proximity, we sauntered down the docks, made our way past the armed Portuguese guards and took a tour round her decks. Apart from a couple of senior officers, both of whom had lived in Oregon, the ship appears to have pulled its crew from the pages of an Abercrombie catalogue. Cadets these days are about 50-50 women and men. They are invariably polite, and definitely more handsome and intelligent than I was at their age.
The Eagle launched in 1936 as the German training ship Horst Wessel. Taken as a war prize by the Americans in 1945 she has since become known as ‘America’s Tall Ship’. She’s one of the few things in life that I believe is a good use of my tax dollars. From the Azores she headed back to the United States via Bermuda.