The U.S. Coast Guard training vessel Eagle will return to Portsmouth after four years for the annual Sail Portsmouth 2013 this summer, according to event organizers.
Donald Coker, chairman of the Piscataqua Maritime Commission, and Lawrence Yerdon, the commission's vice chairman, announced the news on Monday morning in front of Breaking New Grounds in Market Square.
Coker said this year's festival will be held from Aug. 2 through Aug. 4 and the Eagle, which is known as "America's Tall Ship," will be the only vessel that will participate in the annual event.
Yerdon said the Eagle and her crew are scheduled to sail into Portsmouth Harbor on Friday, Aug. 2 through the new Memorial Bridge and arrive at the Port of New Hampshire on Market Street at approximately 4:45 p.m. Public tours will be conducted shortly thereafter after the gates open at 4:30 p.m., he said.
Yerdon said he was concerned the new Memorial Bridge might not have a lift span that would be tall enough to allow the Tall Ship to pass underneath it, but it will be high enough. He noted the old Memorial Bridge that was opened in 1923 was designed to accommodate tall masted sailing vessels that still delivered cargo at that time.
Yerdon said the Eagle will lead the Parade of Sail down the Piscataqua River and the city should be so proud that such a vessel that is always in such high demand will be able to return to the city.
"It's our Tall Ship. That Tall Ship belongs to every one of us," said Coker. "It's the only commissioned sailing vessel in the United States military."
Coker also noted that getting the Eagle to return to the city was no small task given the uncertainty presented by sequestration that forced several federal government spending cuts, which make it harder for the Coast Guard to pay for such visits.
According to the Piscataqua Maritime Commission, the Eagle is 300 feet long and has a 148-foot tall mainmast, three masts and 23 sails that total 22,000 square feet of canvas.
The ship also have five miles of rigging and over 200 individually named lines to control her sails. There is also a crew of 80 Coast Guard members and a cadet trainee compliment of 120. The Eagle's maximum speed under full sail is 17 knots.
Another interesting fact about the Eagle is she began as one of four Nazi Germany ships in 1936 and was later taken by by the U.S. after World War II and rechristened.