USS Constitution

Photo: Jon “Skipper” Masters, at the helm of the USS Constitution.

So I swung by the USS Constitution this afternoon, to indulge the historian within me by engaging in a few hours of exploration of the ship and its long, and somewhat colorful, history. I’ve studied the War of 1812 and previously read about “Old Ironsides” but there’s nothing like seeing the oldest active warship in the US Navy Fleet first-hand.

I’m trying to get into the habit of walking or cycling places around town, rather than taking cabs or riding the T (the municipal MBTA – Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority – subway in Boston) unnecessarily – really, a mile or two of walking is much better than sitting and waiting around. I did my usual walk across Mass. Ave. bridge, along the Charles Reservation Esplanade, and then took a long route around to the Harbor and its battleships. USS Constitution is permanently based at the Navy docks (by order of the US Congress, she is no longer allowed to leave the Harbor perimeter without an act of Congress…and yes, the crew aren’t too happy about that situation…I asked them), which also service other ships and provide support services to the US Military on occasion.

Constitution took my breath away. This ship has such a wonderful history – it’s almost as old as the US itself. It’s a wonderful place, and crewed by some extremely knowledgeable people – I was talking to one guy about the recent tragedy that befell the Cutty Sark after discussing the dynamics of the ship’s construction (much of what is visible today is not a reflection of the true original design of Constitution – for example, the wooden siding on the top deck, which was added in the 1850s), crew complement and procedures they use when they get underway (and under sail – they are the only Navy personnel allowed to free climb masts without safety gear) for the occasional turnabout cruises they operate within the Harbor. I plan to enter the lottery for a chance to be on one of these – though obviously the July 4th turnaround is already well and truly taken. I want to go see her nonetheless.

The only downside of visiting the ship was seeing the other “tourists” leaning on 200 year old equipment like it didn’t matter. I’m going to avoid ranting about the disrespect tourists often show for such things – after all, we live in a world filled with Disney and MTV. But It’s important to respect history (in the same way that US National Parks don’t need to have Starbucks outlets) and the crew were trying to enforce some kind of sanity on the masses. I obtained permission before taking the helm.

After visiting the Constitution, I took a walk up Bunker Hill to look at the monument and reflect. Then I went to Borders for a little more self torture before finally heading home.


One Response to “USS Constitution”

  1. Jocelyn says:

    No idea how I ended up here, but the turnarounds are surprisingly boring until they break out the guns. Then, you want to get down deck and in the front of the line and if you ask very nicely, they will give you a spent shell casing from the firings.

    Totally cool, very loud and stinky. But cool :)

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