Coast Guard Cutter Eagle is easily the most unique ship in the service’s fleet. While Eagle’s hull is painted in the usual white of a Coast Guard patrol cutter, complete with red racing stripe, its masts, sails and miles of rigging make the 295ft barque stand out. Its unique capabilities make it an invaluable training resource for cadets, and the Coast Guard is completing renovation work to keep the 81-year-old ship in service for another 15 years.
Eagle is undergoing the final phase of a four-year service life extension project at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore as part of the Coast Guard’s In-Service Vessel Sustainment Program. Work began in 2014 and has been conducted in four phases so the ship could carry out its training role – providing US Coast Guard Academy cadets with training in seamanship, engineering and leadership – each summer.
Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officer candidates also have opportunities to sail aboard. Work for each phase began in September and is expected to finish in the spring.
Eagle was built at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany, in 1936. The US claimed the ship as part of war reparations in 1945 and commissioned it as Coast Guard Cutter Eagle in 1946, stationing it at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, on the Thames River.
The Coast Guard Yard has worked on Eagle previously, including a similar four-phased renovation project from 1979 to 1983, which involved more extensive work – including deck replacement and restoration of the watertight bulkheads – to bring the cutter up to the operational and safety standards of contemporary cutters. The service has also completed scheduled repairs on Eagle since 1983.
Eagle’s design and construction embody centuries of development in the art of shipbuilding, merging old and new technologies. While part of Eagle’s value lies in the lessons cadets learn about navigation and teamwork from sailing the ship, Eagle also has an engine for propulsion.
Its main diesel engine is being replaced with an MTU 8V4000 M54 during the current extended drydock period. Other work to be completed during this renovation phase includes renewal of the reduction gear and line shaft bearings as well as installation of a new propeller.
Additionally, by the time this phase ends, the Coast Guard Yard will have renewed approximately 2,800 square feet, or about a quarter, of the Eagle’s hull plate, consisting of steel 4/10 inch thick.
With completion of the SLEP this spring, Eagle will be ready for another 15 years of providing future officers the opportunity to put into practice the navigation, engineering and other professional theory they have learned in the classroom.