Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Hey, the tall-ships fun just keeps coming this summer!

So, thanks to prompt alerts from vampyrusgirl, I was able to make last-minute reservations aboard a tour boat that followed the USS Constitution on her annual July 4th Turnaround Cruise.

For those reading this who don't know -- the USS Constitution is the flag-ship of the US Navy, and at 210 years (this October) is the oldest commissioned ship still afloat. (Apparently, the oldest commissioned ship is the HMS Victory, but she is in drydock.)


Some facts: while she has borne the nickname "Old Ironsides" since the war of 1812 (after a naval engagement in which British shot seemed to rebound off her live-oak hull), she is a wooden ship, and not clad in iron. She has undergone a number of refurbishments and rebuildings, to keep her afloat, the latest in 1992-1997. (And apparently after this year she is going into drydock again for some work -- so apparently there will be no turnaround cruise next year; not again until 2009.) She only has sail power; no motor. (So for trips when she is not under sail, she is pushed by tugboats. Which, as we remarked yesterday, ought to be called "shove-boats", shouldn't they?) The last time she was under sail was in her bicentenniel year, 1997.

While she does make an annual turnaround cruise on July 4th, that is not her only "underway demonstration" each year. There are others, apparently. From the digging I've done online, I've found that the turnaround cruise is meant to be just that -- a way to get her out of her berth and back into it turned around from her former position. This is apparently meant to ensure that she weathers evenly. I cannot find confirmation online that she is required to make at least one underway demonstration a year in order to retain her active commission (nor can I find confirmation that that's an urban legend).

On to the pictures! (Don't forget, you can click on these to get to a larger version, and then click again to get the full-sized pic if you want to see details.)

There were four of us on this trip: myself, vampyrusgirl and [Bad username: editswithlonghair], and my_tallest. And here was our little riverboat-style boat, the Boston Belle:

When we got underway at 10am, there were relatively few other boats out there with us. (That would change.) We chugged from the World Trade Center pier over to take a look at the Constitution still in her Charleston berth, and then we vultched around, along with an increasingly number of other boats, waiting for her to come out at 11am.

The lovely Boston skyline from the harbor on a lovely day:

The Constitution still in berth, at far right, with the Zakim bridge at left:

(Huh! Apparently, I missed uploading one of the good shots I took of her still in her berth, when we got closer. Oh well.)

Eventually, as we all circled, and little police boats and Coast Guard boats warned various civilian boats to stay well back, the Constitution got underway, and emerged:

Some pictures of the accompanying flotilla:

This was the view we had of her for most of the way out; I think you can just about see the tugboat pushing her, on her far side:

Along the Constitution's route was docked the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault craft (and not an aircraft-carrier, as I had assumed; I guess an aircraft-carrier would be even bigger?).


So it was a real highlight with the Old Warship sailing past the New Warship. (I think if you zoom in on some of the pics, you can just about make out the sailors lining her deck to salute the Constitution as she goes by.)

Another pic of the accompanying flotilla as we near Castle Island (not really an island) and Fort Independence:


Random shot of another cute riverboat-style craft accompanying us: yes, that's an actual, working paddlewheel:

(At right in the above shot, you can also see the Spirit of Boston, another tour boat out there, and obviously, a humongous one. We really came to resent the bullying presence of the Spirit of Boston, because she kept kind of getting between us and the Constitution, and we were little, and she was very big, and it was annoying.)

Here is a shot showing the Constitution nearing Fort Independence:

As she approached, the fort had been firing cannon salutes. Once the Consititution got there, she fired at least 10 shots back. (I didn't count exactly, I was too busy taking pictures.) Here's a distance shot of the Constitution firing, followed by two close-up shots (which was me cropping some shots and blowing them up a bit):

Then she was gradually turned around, to head back. For much of the sail back, we were ahead of her -- because, as you can kind of see in these shots, we had stayed quite far back. (I don't really understand why we didn't get closer. There were lots of other boats carrying spectators that got much closer. I wonder what "rules" there were for who was allowed to get how close, that we didn't know about?)

On the sail back, we got a close look at some other tall ships that were there. Here is an earlier shot of the brigantine Formidable (how awesome a name is that?), with one of her beautiful red sails set (Constitution in middle and Fort Independence at right):

Three tall-ships at once -- the Constitution, the Formidable, and the Roseway (which also has red sails):

(The reason the Constitution is kind of obscured in the above pic is because sailing ahead of her, between us and her, was a Boston fireboat, which was festively shooting up plumes of water -- and the mist was falling between us and obscuring the view of the Constitution for a bit. The second pic is a shot of the Boston fireboat doing its thing.)


Here are some more shots of both the Formidable and the Roseway (click the above links to see them under sail) as they passed us: the two together; the Roseway (which is a windjammer schooner); and the Formidable from the stern, showing her cute little stern cabin:

Passing the USS Wasp again; in the second shot you can just see her sailors in their white uniforms on deck to salute the Constitution as she passes:

And finally... the Constitution passes us again, as we stay by the wharf where we'll dock, and she sails on by back to her berth in Charleston. We agreed that this view on the way back was even better than the view on the way out -- she seemed to come closer, and most of the other sightseeing boats were well behind her, so we have a more unobstructed view. (The first pic is my "Big Sky" shot.)

Farewell, Constitution!

This was an absolutely awesome trip, and I'm really, really glad that vampyrusgirl mentioned it, and that we were able to get spots on the boat with her and her husband. We all agreed that maybe next year we would try to be out at Castle Island, to get to see the cannonade from up close... but the info I found out above makes it sound like we'll have to wait until 2009 to do that, or to put our names in for the multiple lotteries that take place to get you onto the Constitution herself for various trips, including this one.

In the meantime, though, as mentioned in my previous Tall Ships post -- there's plans afoot to try to go for sails on various local tall ships, to which we may now add the Formidable, the Poincare, and the Roseway.

(The Formidable sounds especially cool to go on, because as her website puts it: "We feature the Poincare - Formidable privateer attack with cannons blazing and flags flying. Formidable is ambushed by Poincare in Boston Harbor and a fantastic harbor battle follows!" This happens on various summer Saturdays, and costs $25. We have GOT to go on one of these! Yaarrrr!)


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 5th, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC)
these are wonderful! yay that you had the opportunity to go.

been thinking of you and am sending you a big *hugs*.
Jul. 5th, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC)
Ooh, yes, sign me up for the 'Formidable' - doesn't that mean 'swallow' in French? ;) Also, you forgot to mention the Quiche Hounds!! :P

I really do think that what we sacrificed for the view going out was woth the view going in, as no matter how close we got on the way there, we were still looking at or past a ton of other boats. On the way back in felt like just her and us, with her coming straight towards us. It was gorgeous! I would have liked to have been closer for the cannons, though. Next time!
Jul. 5th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
Also, you forgot to mention the Quiche Hounds!!
I just posted an entry about them.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )