Sailing with the Coast Guard

Earlier this month, we sailed aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, the military's only active-duty sailing ship. She serves as a training vessel for cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut -- and we got to watch just how tight a ship these hundred-plus trainees run.

We boarded a Coast Guard small boat at North Cove Marina (it was almost as fun of a ride aboard one of our RHIBs!) and transferred to the Eagle just past the Verrazano Bridge. It was quite the jump, even in fair seas. Tough to imagine being a Sandy Hook Pilot in a storm in the middle of winter!

Captain of the Port Michael Day and Eagle Captain Matt Meilstrup welcomed passengers aboard. There was a lot of insignia to learn that day, but it's easy to tell a Captain by his four solid shoulder stripes.

Steering the ship requires six cadets at the helm, a hallmark of traditional sailing. Built in 1936 in Hamburg, Germany as the Horst Wessel, the ship ended up in U.S. possession as war reparations after World War II. 

The U.S. Coast Guard sailed her to New York in 1946, with the help of her German Captain and volunteers from the German navy -- many of whom were happy to see the end of the Nazi era. Eagle leadership told us that Germany had worked hard to build its navy long before Hitler came to power in 1933, and many of its naval leaders didn't sympathize with the party.

Throughout the trip, cadets meticulously mapped our course, taking three directional bearings every couple of minutes and plotting them on the chart.

They also had the help of Sandy Hook Pilot Mark Wanderer -- seen here in slacks and a tie, typical pilot attire -- in keeping an eye on the course. 

Other guests aboard included cast members of the Broadway show 'Hamilton,' who were seen here being interviewed by ABC News.

At the top of its tallest mast, the Eagle was flying the two-star flag for Rear Admiral James Rendon, who was also aboard. He's currently the Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy.

Climbing the rigging was tempting, but the Eagle is definitely not a place for rule-breaking. The cadets had strict systems for handling the 9-plus miles of rope on board.

We also had free rein to wander below deck. Here's a conference room -- wish more of my meetings would be held at sea!

After a 4-hour sail, we came ashore at Pier 86, near the decommissioned aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid. The cadets put on one last display of their coordinated line handling as they tied up. Then, they carried a huge gangway across the deck to let guests disembark -- and we figured we learned the origin of the phrase "gang way!" You better move out of the way when the gangway is coming through.

The Eagle has always been an impressive sight on the water, but now we'll be even more excited to see her return to New York Harbor so we can relive our time aboard.