I love EAGLE. I absolutely adore the Coast Guard’s 295-foot, barque class tall ship – meaning, a sailing ship with three masts, two of which have square sails, while the third is fore-and-aft rigged. Every officer commissioned into the service since the 1940s has sailed on it, and I glow with pride to have spent even a limited time working on the one-of-a-kind boat. If you are planning on attending the Academy, I would recommend that you approach the EAGLE experience with an open mind. There may be nothing else quite like EAGLE in the rest of the Coast Guard, but that truth makes time spent on the boat truly a unique opportunity.
There are two tall ships in the U.S. military: USCGC EAGLE and the USS Constitution. Given the Constitution’s advanced age (it was commissioned by George Washington before the War of 1812!), EAGLE is the only active-duty tall ship in the American seagoing services. Many Coast Guard and Academy practices are steeped in what the CGA mission refers to as “the sea and its lore,” traditions that date back to the golden age of sail, when vessels like Constitution and EAGLE made up the Navy and Revenue Cutter Service, the precursor of the modern Coast Guard. Being on EAGLE gives context for many customs practiced at the Academy. I also love the feeling of, pre-COVID, giving tours to little kids excited about the “pirate ship” … which isn’t historically accurate, but it’s always great to see the next generation delighted about boats.
And I saved my favorite part about EAGLE for last: the camaraderie. Even if sailing isn’t your jam, it’s a great bonding opportunity. Over Swab Summer, your class will be broken into three groups for EAGLE, and over 3/c summer, there are two phases. You’ll be on the boat with a third to a half of your class at any given time. Being on a 295-foot boat with that many people brings its own challenges, but it’s certainly a catalyst for team building. Furthermore, you’ll be assigned to a smaller division to stand watch, and people from my EAGLE divos are close friends to this day. Experiences like seeing the milky way at 4 AM, watching dolphins dance in the bow waves, and blasting Elton John while washing dishes are some of my most cherished memories as a cadet, and I’m so thankful for the people I got to share them with. I hope that, like me, you’ll love EAGLE, but no matter what, please be openminded to the adventure.