The Eagle is a three-masted sailing Barque with 21,350 square feet of sail. It is homeported at the CG Academy, New London, Connecticut. It is the only active commissioned sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services. (One of five such Training Barques in world. Sister ships include: MIRCEA of Romania, SAGRES II of Portugal, GORCH FOCK of Germany, and TOVARICH of Russia.)
The Eagle bears a name that goes back to the early history of the United States’ oldest continuous seagoing service. The first Eagle was commissioned in 1792, just two years after the formation of the Revenue Marine, the forerunner of today’s Coast Guard.
Today’s Eagle, the seventh in a long line of proud cutters to bear the name, was built in 1936 by the Blohm & Voss Shipyard, Hamburg, Germany, as a training vessel for German Naval Cadets. It was commissioned Horst Wessel and following World War II was taken as a war prize by the United States. On May 15, 1946, the barque was commissioned into U.S. Coast Guard service as the Eagle and sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany to New London, Connecticut.
Eagle serves as a seagoing classroom for approximately 175 cadets and instructors from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. It is on the decks and rigging of the Eagle that the young men and women of the Academy get their first taste of salt air and life at sea. From this experience they develop a respect for the elements that will be with them throughout their lifetime. They are tested and challenged, often to the limits of their endurance. Working aloft they meet fear and learn to overcome it. The training cadets receive under sail has proven to be an invaluable asset during their subsequent Coast Guard careers.
On Eagle, cadets have a chance to practically apply the navigation, engineering and other training they receive in classes at the Academy. As upper-class cadets, they perform the leadership functions normally handled by junior officers. As under-class cadets, they fill positions normally taken by the enlisted crew of the ship, including helm watch at the huge brass and wood wheels used to steer the vessel.
Sailing in Eagle, cadets handle more than 20,000 square feet of sail and 5 miles of rigging. Over 200 lines must be coordinated during a major ship maneuver, so cadets must learn the name and function of each line.
The ship readily takes to the task for which it was designed. Eagle’s hull is built of steel, four-tenths of an inch thick. It has two full length steel decks with a platform deck below and a raised forecastle and quarterdeck. The weather decks are three-inch-thick teak over steel.
When at home, Eagle rests alongside a pier at the Coast Guard Academy on the Thames River. The Academy was originally founded in 1876 with a class of nine students on board the Revenue Cutter Dobbin. In 1932, a permanent Academy was built on land donated by the New London community. Enrollment at the Academy numbers approximately 700 men and women, all of whom sail at one time or another on America’s only active duty square rigger.