USS Eagle

August Musings


While busy doing other things the weeds and the season marches on.  Two weeks ago I spotted my first red leaf, a high up and lonely harbinger of cooler nights yet to come.  And then there was there gorgeous purple stain in the kitchen sink from peach skins slipped for a spectacular white peach ice cream.  White peaches have a fragrance that is unique and comes only for a few short weeks in August.  This batch of peaches had a pink color only on the shoulders, but it was a powerful hue.  Staining the sink purple and yielding four cups of deep pink puree. Anybody looking at the finished product would be sure it was strawberry, until it melted in their mouth. 

In the mornings it is sometimes cool enough to begin thinking about long pants again.Not cool enough to actually dig them out from the closet floor, but cool enough to think about it.


 With other project taking up much of the last month, my camera has only had a few forays.  When the USS Eagle, the Coast Tall Ship, came to New Bedford, I thought I missed my chance to see it.  It was just too hot, but early on the Sunday morning of its visit I went down to the harbor, hoping to see it as it left port. I discovered that I was wrong about both the days and the times.  On this day, it would be open to the public at 10:00 am.  However, it was only 8:30. I was milling around looking for interesting photo ideas, when a group starting walking up the gangplank.  Figuring that the worst that would happen is that I would get sent back, I just joined in.  After about 5 minutes I realized I had tagged along with an admissions tour for high school students who were considering applying to the Coast Guard Academy and their families.  I kept my camera in its bag, so as not to blow my cover, but it was a real treat to be able to ask tons of questions and not have a teenager rolling their eyes with embarrassment as mom fires away.

The Eagle is an impressive ship.  The 3 masts are 147 feet tall.  It has a permanent crew of 50 and most of the time 150 people are living on board.  Why in this day and age does the Coast Guard use a square rigged sailing ship where all the management of sails is done the old fashioned way?- No winches here, no self-furling sails.  The answer is simple.  To become a seaman, a successful cadet has to understand his or her limits and that of her ship.  The Eagle gives them their first taste of the power of the wind and waves on the sea..  Before graduating from the Coast Guard Academy they will learn the name and function of every one of the 200 lines on this ship and what it does- along with a great deal more. 


 The admissions tour does not spare the details of daily life – the sardine like bunks, eating with one hand while keeping your food from rolling away or into the barf of the swabbie sitting next to you.  And counterbalancing these nitty gritty shipboard life facts is the spit, polish and pride the cadets reflect in their scrubbed faces.  A full third of the cadets are women and a surprising number come from land locked states – the wide open prarie spaces no match for the lure of the sea.