As you might recall, in the last entry of the epic chronicle that is my cadet blog, I was sitting in a Seattle Starbucks discussing my time on the USCGC Midgett. Right now, I’m sitting in another food venue (seems to be a trend here...); but, this time, it’s the mess deck of the Barque Eagle, the Coast Guard tall ship and Academy’s training vessel. And, I might add, the only active duty tall ship in the U.S. military. Maybe the World Cup final will start playing on the mess deck TV, but to be quite honest, my faith in the ability to find satellite signal out in the Atlantic Ocean is weak.
Third class summer is broken into two parts. I, along with my classmates onboard Eagle right now, all started off at a cutter, small boat station, or playing late-season sports. Thus, we’re currently fulfilling the second half of our training on Eagle. These weeks are all about learning the “traditional” skills of sailing and navigation. We have bridge and engineering qualifications similar to those at our first units; but, in addition, we now have celestial navigation, damage control, and deck seamanship activities in which to participate as well. We have used sextants and stars to plot position, climbed the rigging and hauled lines to set sails, qualified helm and lookout, studied for the damage control exam, and learned the engineering watch stander round. So, in essence, we get to act out Pirates of the Caribbean for a month and a half. Arrgh!
Eagle is the distinctive feature of third class summer; most cadets will never sail on this ship again. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back, due to my desires to be Swab Summer cadre and to see icebreaking and other units as a firstie; but, I’m grateful to have had the chance to be on Eagle. The mission of the Coast Guard Academy is to create officers “with a liking for the sea and its lore,” and I believe Eagle and the traditions that surround it get us as close to that lore as we’ll ever be. Knowing how mariners have sailed throughout the years helps us to see how things have changed: what has improved and what is missing, what our roles as sailors demand now versus in the past, what new challenges we face. Having this background in square rigger sailing, a seemingly old-fashioned art, actually helps us understand the modern Coast Guard. It’s a unique experience of the Academy training program!
(And if you were wondering… the TV never did work.)
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