Haze Gray Photo Feature

Sail 200

"Old Ironsides" Sails Again

On July 21st, 1997 USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, sailed for the first time in over a century. These photographs document that historic day, the ship's 200th birthday, and events leading up to it.

This sail was the capstone of many years of restoration, designed to fully restore the historic warship to her former glory. For more information on the restoration, visit the Constitution restoration photo gallery. For her first sail she was fitted with six sails - fore, main and mizzen tops'ls (square sails), jib and flying jib, and spanker. The sails were made from Oceanus, a modern, synthetic sail material with the appearance of traditional canvas. The square sails were cut by sailmaker Nathaniel Wilson of East Boothbay, Maine, using a gymnasium as an improvised sail loft. The other sails were made by the Navy in Boston.

On July 8th Constitution was towed from her berth for a trial sail. During this outing she remained tethered to a tug, so she did not officially "sail". On Sunday July 20th she was towed from Boston to Marblehead, where she spent the night. During the trip her sails were unfurled for "sail training under tow". On the 21st she was towed offshore from Marblehead, set her sails, and cast off from the tugs. With a light breeze blowing in at 12 knots, she reached speed of 6 1/2 knots. The historic frigate returned to Boston later that evening. The sail was a complete success.

Throughout this event, Constitution was accompanied by several escorts - the guided missile destroyer Ramage, the guided missile frigate Halyburton, the Coast Guard buoy tender Juniper, the Coast Guard tug Pendant, and three commercial tugs. The Boston Fire Department fireboat, the Massachusetts Port Authority Fireboat, and the Boston Police Department's large patrol boat provided escort through Boston Harbor. Several smaller sailing ships were also in attendance. The Navy's Blue Angels made several passes overhead in their F/A-18 Hornets.

Most of these photos were taken by Edward J. Clear, a descendant of Isaac Hull, Constitution's most famous captain, and are used with permission. A few photos were taken by Gregg Germain.

For more information and photos, visit the Official USS Constitution hompepage and the Official Sail 200 Website.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution's main topsail, photographed from her quarterdeck during her "trial sail" 8 July, 1997. Photo by Gregg Germain.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution's mainmast, photgraphed from her foretop. Constitution is in her normal berth; "HMS" Bounty is docked astern, the museumship-destroyer Cassin Young is at left, and the Boston Coast Guard base is at right. Photo by Gregg Germain.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution's fore rigging at dusk. Photo taken on Saturday July 19th, as preparations for the sail were being finalized.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution's main rigging at dusk.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution's main rigging at dusk.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution passes the Boston Coast Guard base, Sunday July 20th. The white vessel obstructing the view of her bow is the Boston police boat.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution passes downdown Boston, headed out of the harbor on the 20th.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution in the outer harbor with the Boston fireboat.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of Constution and the fireboat.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution, with her tug out of sight to starboard, in Boston Harbor.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of Constitution

 [THUMBNAIL] One last view of Constitution leaving Boston.

 [THUMBNAIL] The Boston Fire Department fireboat showing off in the outer harbor

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of the fireboat, with a schooner beyond.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution under tow off Boston, with her sails set. The destroyer Ramage is at left; spectator boats everywhere.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another shot of Constitution and Ramage.

 [THUMBNAIL] Frigate Halyburton, Constitution's other escort.

 [THUMBNAIL] Bow-on view of Constitution approaching Marblehead. There are two tugs on her port side; the buoy tender Juniper is astern.

 [THUMBNAIL] Port-side view of Constitution and her tugs.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution's stern and aft rigging.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution's bow. The Coast Guard tug Pendant is at left; Juniper beyond.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution at her mooring in Marblehead. She was moored to a pair of barges which served as a temporary dock; these in turn were anchored.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of Constitution at Marblehead.

 [THUMBNAIL] A third view of Constitution at Marblehead.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution moored in Marblehead Harbor on July 20, 1997. Photo by Gregg Germain.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution under sail on July 21st.

 [THUMBNAIL] The Blue Angels pass over Constitution

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of Constitution under sail.

 [THUMBNAIL] Frigate Halyburton

 [THUMBNAIL] Third view of Constitution under sail.

 [THUMBNAIL] From left: Halyburton, Ramage, Constitution and a fireboat.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution's rigging appears above Halyburton

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution fires a cannon; Ramage is at right.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of Constitution under sail.

 [THUMBNAIL] Halyburton leads Constitution into Boston on the 21st.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution returns to Boston.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution exchanges cannon salutes with Fort Indepenence.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of Constitution passing Fort Independence.

 [THUMBNAIL] Constitution disappears into the inner harbor.

 [THUMBNAIL] Ramage follows Constitution into port.

 [THUMBNAIL] Closeup of Ramage's bow.

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