US Coastguard cutter Eagle heading up Thames for Canary Wharf

US Coastguard cutter Eagle heading for London

US Coastguard cutter Eagle heading for London - Credit: US Coastguard

The Yanks are coming—a boatload of American Coastguards and cadets are coming up the Thames at dawn tomorrow to strike at the hearts of Londoners.

US Coastguard cutter Eagle heading for London

US Coastguard cutter Eagle heading for London - Credit: US Coastguard

They’ll be docking at old London’s Millwall Docks at Canary Wharf at 6.30am aboard the US cutter Eagle on its second visit in five years.

The cadets might be forgiven for mistaking Old Father Thames for their own home base on the “other” Thames at New London, in Connecticut.

The 295ft-long Eagle is America’s biggest Tall Ship which has served as a ‘classroom at sea’ since 1946.

It is the largest sail vessel flying the Stars and Stripes.

US Coastguard cutter Eagle heading for London

US Coastguard cutter Eagle heading for London - Credit: US Coastguard


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But it didn’t start out that way—originally it flew the Swastika for Hitler’s Germany, built in Hamberg in 1936 as a training vessel for the Kriegsmarine, which became a war prize in the reparations to the victorious Allies in 1945.

It joined the US Coastguard’s training academy a year later and has been making voyages around the globe ever since, getting their raw recruits shipshape.

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The last time this three-mast barque visited ‘Old’ London with its 22,300sq ft of sail and six miles of rigging was in 2011, when it also docked at Canary Wharf.

The vessel is opened for free public tours from 12 to 7pm tomorrow, 10am-7pm Friday and Saturday, 12-7pm Sunday and 10am-7pm Monday.

US Coastguard cutter Eagle heading for London

US Coastguard cutter Eagle heading for London - Credit: US Coastguard

Then she weighs anchor and sets sail for Portuguese Madeira on the same route that was charted when the original Horst Wessel first sailed to America 80 years ago, waving the Swastika.

But its modern persona as The Eagle follows a tradition back to the early history of America’s Coastguard. The first Eagle was commissioned in 1792, just two years after formation of the Revenue Marine, the forerunner of the US Coastguard.

Today’s Eagle, the seventh bearing the name, takes 175 cadets and instructors from the Coast Guard Academy on each voyage, where raw recruits get their first taste of salt air and life at sea.

They are tested and challenged, often working aloft to meet fear and learn to overcome it.

The Eagle's last visit to London's Millwall Docks at Canary Wharf in 2011

The Eagle's last visit to London's Millwall Docks at Canary Wharf in 2011 - Credit: Archant

Skills taught include navigation, engineering, leadership and being able to fill positions normally taken by enlisted crew such as helm watch at the huge brass and wood wheels used to steer the vessel.

Eagle’s hull is built of steel, four-tenths of an inch thick, has two full length steel decks with a platform deck below and a raised forecastle and quarterdeck. The weatherdecks are three-inch-thick teak over steel.

Its home base is alongside a pier at the Coast Guard Academy on the Thames River in New London, Connecticut. The academy was founded in 1876 with a class of nine students on board the Revenue Cutter Dobbin. It became a permanent academy in 1932, taking a full enrolment of 700 young men and women.

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