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July 7, 2021

Coast Guard Cutter Eagle to join Maine's belated bicentennial celebration

sailboat Courtesy / U.S. Coast Guard A visit from historic U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle will help Maine celebrate its belated bicentennial.

As part of a full court press to celebrate the state’s 200th anniversary a year later, the Maine Bicentennial Commission has snagged a visit from a historic vessel — the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle.

Called America's Tall Ship, the Eagle will berth at the Ocean Gateway Terminal in Portland on Friday, Aug. 6, through Monday, Aug. 9, for free public tours and other events.

The Eagle is a 295-foot-long, three-masted barque, and carries 23 sails. Operating as a seagoing classroom, it hails from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. The Eagle has a crew of about 60 and will have more than 100 academy cadets on board when it visits.

The ship tours the world as a goodwill ambassador of the U.S., while training cadets and officer candidates for future assignments in America's smallest military branch.

Built at the Blohm+Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany, in 1936, and commissioned as Horst Wessel, Eagle was one of three sail-training ships operated by the pre-World War II German navy. At the close of the war, the ship was taken as a war reparation by the U.S., re-commissioned and sailed to New London.

“A visit from Eagle brings many great things to the Portland waterfront,” Coast Guard Capt. Amy Florentino said in a news release.

Florentino commands Coast Guard forces in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont from Sector Northern New England, headquartered in Portland.

“It puts the spotlight on the tireless work the men and women of the Coast Guard do year-round on our coast and on Lake Champlain,” she said. “They act as the constant guardian for those who earn their living or just enjoy being on the water. It's nice to see them recognized.”

Each summer, Eagle conducts port visits in different parts of the world, having sailed to Europe and Australia in previous years. This summer, Portland will be the sixth stop on a tour that will include the Azores, Iceland and Bermuda.

The commission aims to honor the state’s shipbuilding and seafaring history as part of the activities that spurred interest in Maine.

“Maine is renowned for the quality of the ships built here, the value of the wood that was used to construct these vessels, and for the variety of activities — from fishing to transportation, recreation to rescue, research to defense. The Eagle is a magnificent reminder of the majesty of sail,” said state Sen. Bill Diamond, the commission’s chair.

Coinciding with Eagle’s visit and sponsored by Bangor Savings Bank and the commission, the local nonprofit Sailing Ships Maine will coordinate a week-long Bicentennial Sailors Voyage for Maine teens. The voyage will take place the first week of August aboard the USCG-certified, wooden 131-foot Maine-built Schooner Harvey Gamage. 

Other bicentennial plans in the works include a “four-port loop” of tall ship visits to Bangor, Bucksport, Searsport and Castine this July, sponsored by the Penobscot Maritime Heritage Association.

The commission’s calendar also includes Boothbay Harbor Windjammer Days, Tall Ships Festival and the Friendship Sloop Society Homecoming Regatta in Rockland. 

According to the commission’s website, most bicentennial events originally scheduled for 2020 are now being rescheduled for this summer and fall, including a Bicentennial Time Capsule ceremony, an innovation expo, and a State of Maine Bicentennial Parade.

For more information about the bicentennial or the Eagle, click here or here. For more information about Sailing Ships Maine, click here.

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