An Auxiliarist’s Journey Sailing on the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle

Monday, October 20, 2014

 The USCGC Eagle in New York Harbor next to the Statute of Liberty. USCG Auxiliary Photo by James Chin.

The USCGC Eagle in New York Harbor next to the Statute of Liberty. USCG Auxiliary Photo by James Chin.

Every summer, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle sails with a crew of six officers, approximately fifty-four enlisted Coast Guardsmen, and an occasional auxiliarist during training missions. The Eagle is a two-hundred ninety-five foot tall ship operated by the Coast Guard Academy and home ported in New London, Connecticut with key missions in training and public affairs. She typically trains about one hundred twenty Coast Guard Academy Cadets and Officer Candidates in phases. Space permitting, Midshipmen from the Naval Academy and cadets from other friendly countries are allowed to come for training.

Article by Auxiliarist Rick Schal

Since 2008, I have had the honor and privilege of sailing on the Eagle every summer as a qualified Quartermaster of the Watch. Basically, I take over navigational watches for four hours at a time in order to allow the full time-crew the opportunity to train the cadets and officer candidates. The rotation is four hours on and eight hours off whenever we are underway. The primary duties include: chart plotting, keeping the logs up-to-date, verifying course, making pipes, sending position reports to CG command, sending weather reports to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administraion and keeping the Officer on Deck informed of any unusual circumstances. The work is challenging but enjoyable. The navigation rotations go by very quickly.

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Iceberg off the Nova Scotia coast. Photo by Auxiiairist Rick Schal.

This summer I sailed from Miami, Florida to Sydney, Nova Scotia to Saint John’s, Newfoundland and then to New York City, New York. We sailed approximately a little over three thousand nautical miles in just over five weeks. We experienced the drastic differences in environment when we left Miami in ninety-five degree heat and later passed numerous icebergs as we sailed into Saint John’s. Fortunately, the weather over the five-week period was generally excellent with good winds. We sailed the Gulf Stream as much as possible which gave us a two plus knot increase in speed.

 The USCGC Eagle in New York Harbor. USCG Auxiliary Photo by James Chin

The USCGC Eagle in New York Harbor. The New York City skyline, including One World Trade Center can be seen in the background. USCG Auxiliary Photo by James Chin.

I requested these mission leg routes because I knew we would end up sailing into New York harbor. I was born and raised in this area and hadn’t returned in sometime. The first time I ever saw the Eagle was on July 4, 1976 during the Country’s Bi-Centennial. I watched her lead the Tall Ship parade in New York harbor while vividly thinking how great it would be to just be able to tour the Eagle and walk her decks. For those of you who don’t believe dreams really do come true, take it from me that they actually do come true. It may have taken thirty-two years, but it was well worth the wait.

Auxiliarists Rick Schal (Left) and Peter Talamo (Right) prepare to hoist up a flag commemorating the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's 75th Anniversary onboard the USCGC Eagle during her visit to New York City. USCG Auxiliary Photo by James Chin.

Auxiliarists Rick Schal (Left) and Peter Talamo (Right) prepare to hoist up an ensign commemorating the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s 75th Anniversary onboard the USCGC Eagle during her visit to New York City. USCG Auxiliary Photo by James Chin.

While in New York City I got to visit the Aircraft Carrier Intrepid and have a private tour of the Concorde Jet with other Auxiliary members from the local area. I also made a visit to the site of the World Trade Center. It was sad to visit the two reflecting pools as I lost a number of friends on September 11, 2001 but also encouraging to see the resolve of our Country and the new World Trade Tower.

All in all, it was a great trip. I would like to thank the members from First Southern District for their hospitality and friendship. I would also like to recommend that everyone who hasn’t toured Eagle, to do so.  She is a magnificent ship and I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

Auxiliarist Rick Schal is part of the Eagle crew and has spent the past 5 weeks on the Eagle. USCG Auxiliary Photo by James Chin.

Auxiliarist Rick Schal is part of the crew on the Eagle’s visit to New York City. USCG Auxiliary Photo by James Chin.

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  1. Amos Johnson says:

    I sailed on the Eagle as an Auxiliary Quartermaster of the Watch for six weeks in 2004. That trip was an experience of a lifetime for me and gave me the chance to see, first hand, what a wonderful group of young men and women we have in the Coast Guard.

  2. Dustin says:

    I had no idea that you could do that! Talk about an adventure and an honor! How does an auxiliarist work up to being able to do this?

  3. Kevin Coulombe says:

    This was a great story! I am really impressed how the USCG makes these opportunities available to the Auxiliary!

  4. R. Curt Aikin says:

    My life’s experiences have been exceptional, I have 2 regrets in my life, the second relates to the CGC Eagle. I was 21 years old and Radarman third class in the USCG, chomping at the bit to my release date from my enlistment. I was confident that I could apply all that I learned in the Coast Guard to a civilian job/career and make more than $ 6,000.00 a year. When it came time for me to re-enlist or take my honorable discharge and pursue my dreams, my detailer called me and offered me a VRB and Land duty. I respectfully declined. Then he said “Would you consider extending your enlistment for 6 months and serving on CGC Eagle for their Cadet training Cruise” you would be teaching Radar skills to the new officers. In my ignorance I said no, when I told my father who was a retired LTCDR in the Navy, his response was “You Idiot this is an opportunity of a lifetime!”. In retrospect I know he was right. My first regret was working one more day before I left to be at my father’s bedside when his Cancer took him, he was in a coma when I got there and died the next day.

  5. Mark Thomas says:

    As an Auxiliarist, I spent two weeks on the Eagle a couple of years ago. I’d rate that experience as one of the greatest in my lifetime (so far). We covered roughly 1000 miles, and the cadet crew was a combination of NOAA officers-in-training and USCG officer candidates. I had a first hand look and a chance to participate in the training they went through. On board for my trip was both a 3-star Admiral,a 2-star, and I was very, very impressed how these senior officers were accessible and able to share their wisdom and leadership. Fantastic trip!

  6. Joe Langone says:

    I was able to get on the EAGLE as an Auxiliarst for a week on her last leg when she sailed into Baltimore Harbor this past September 2014. It was during the 200 year anniversary celebration of the war of 1812 with the tall ships. I was on the bow as we rendered military honors at Ft. McHenry and then sailed into the harbor with the Blue Angles flying over and crowds of people watching us dock. Without a doubt one of the most memorable moments of my life.

  7. Greg Pioch says:

    I am new to the USCGAux and first heard of this opportunity at D-Train this month. I would dearly like to focus my training to take part in such an activity, and I too would like to know who to talk to, and what training an auxiliarist needs to get onboard?

    • admin says:

      Greg, Please let your fso-mt (member training) and fso-op (operations) know that you want onboard training and they should be able to mentor you and set up a schedule and pqs (performance qualification standards). Good Luck!

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