Roatan’s Beauty, Truth & Wisdom

USCGC Eagle flies her flag at Port of Roatan.

Biggest Sailing Ship to Date Visits Roatan

June was a windy month on Roatan and two unusual vessels chose Roatan as a port of call. On June 26, six Cuban refugees sailed onto the reef at Fantasy Island. Despite no guarantee of residency, desperate Cubans continue to brave the 1,000 kilometer of open ocean to flee the socialist regime.

On June 29, USCGC Eagle, a US coast guard school ship docked at Port of Roatan and flew her banner. For two days Eagle turned into a floating museum hosting hundreds of Roatanians touring it’s deck and receiving a lesson in vessel’s history.

On Roatan the Eagle’s crew and cadets got a break from their sailing routine and got to do a bit of diving, snorkeling, zip lining, and shopping. “This was actually Eagle’s first visit to Honduras and Roatan (…) I can scarcely believe that none of my predecessors would have visited. Their loss,” wrote Matt Meilstrup, Eagle’s Commanding Officer. “We also had very productive meetings with the Honduran armed forces and government, especially Navy and Merchant Marine.”

The 295’ training cutter is the only active sailing ship in US military service. She dates back seven generations of ships to 1792 when US coast guard used its first ship – ‘Revenue Cutter Eagle.’ The Eagle was originally christened Horst Wessel in Hamburg in 1936, after a Nazi hero, in the presence of Adolf Hitler. She trained German sailors until WWII broke out and in 1942 she was armed and patrolled Baltic Sea. After the defeat of Germany, Horst Wessel was won by the United States in a drawing of lots with the Soviet and British navies and given to the US Coast Guard. Since 1946 every single new US cadet undergoing officer training has begun his or her career by learning to traverse the seas the old way, by trimming sails and scrubbing the decks.

The Eagle has almost 10 kilometers of running rigging and 2,070 square meter of sail area. Her hull is made of 3” teak wood laid with 1” steel. For an octogenarian, the Eagle is in great shape and there are no plans to retire it.

The New London, Connecticut based Eagle goes out on voyages lasting up to two months. It performs a public relations duty for the US Coast Guard as it offers training to cadets and officer candidates. USCGC Eagle recently underwent renovations including repairs to portions of her hull, upgrades to the berthing areas, installation of a new radar, and inspection of her masts. “That work is expected to add an additional 15 years of service life though, if my past experience is any guide, that will be stretched much longer,” wrote Captain Meilstrup. “ The ship is in fantastic material condition.” On July 2 Eagle departed Roatan for Cartagena, Colombia, to Curacao and then onto Miami.

Six Cubans with their vessel on the reef in front of Fantasy Island. (photo by Gringo Divemaster)

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