Make a short trip on a tall ship

Take a virtual ride on the tall ship Eagle

Jim Cerny, story and photography

Mid-summer is the season for tall ships to visit the Piscataqua and dock in Portsmouth. This year there were the: Eagle, Kalmar Nyckel, Spirit of Massachusetts, and Spirit of South Carolina.

The Eagle is a 295-foot, steel hulled, square-rigged ship used by the US Coast Guard as a training vessel. I was fortunate to be one of those invited aboard for the ride in. The US Coast Guard ferried us from the Portsmouth waterfront using their 47-foot motorized lifeboats to where the Eagle waited outside the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor, near the 2KR buoy.

At 8 a.m. the Eagle began a parade of boats of all types into the harbor, which was a splendid sight whether viewed from the Eagle itself or from shore. The other three tall ships were supposed to be part of the parade but some miscommunication must have occurred, as one was completely missing and two passed us out-going while we were half-way in!


Figurehead on the Eagle, when docked. (Bill Drew photo)



Wake of the Coast Guard boat bringing us down the Piscataqua to the waiting "Eagle".



Waiting at the harbor entrance at sunrise, with setting moon.



Visitors about to transfer from the Coast Guard lifeboat to the Eagle at sunrise.



Waiting for the parade to form after sunrise, with sun flare.



Parade beginning to form, with bulk carrier "Gypsum Centennial" anchored offshore.



Navy tugboat spraying water in the wake of the "Eagle".



Visitors on deck, looking to the bow.



A triplet of blocks (pulleys) with the Maine shoreline in the background.



Base of the main mast, with attendant ropes.



Looking into the rigging at the maintop platform.



American flag with rigging in the foreground.



Cadets steering the Eagle note the three wheels in tandem.



Captain Jones, commanding officer.


A Chinese cadet, one of several foreign cadets onboard.



A pair of salute guns, ready to fire.



The boat parade while passing the New Castle shore.



The view from the New Castle shore, with the "Spirit of South Carolina" heading out while the "Eagle" is heading in. (Michael Donovan photo)



The Portsmouth fireboat "Sagamore" leads the parade, spraying water. Here it is seen through the rigging, with a momentary rainbow formed in the spray.



The main mast clearing the Memorial Bridge.



The boat parade thins out as the Eagle nears the dock in Portsmouth.


The Eagle arrived under perfect conditions of sea, tide, and sky. Life on a tall ship under storm conditions on the open sea would be dramatically different. As a contrast we can look at the voyage of the Peking that Irving Johnson filmed in the 1920s, available as a film he narrates called "Around Cape Horn". The Peking was a large vessel, about 100 feet longer than the Eagle and it is sobering to see the decks swept by enormous waves and learn that two crew members were lost during the voyage. I can't even imagine what it would be like to be trimming sails 50 feet or more above the deck of a rolling and pitching ship in howling winds. But that was routinely done in era of iron men and wooden ships!


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September, 2009


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