'Old Ironsides' sails across Boston Harbor before 3-year-rehab

The USS Constitution, nicknamed Old Ironsides, is to be restored to its War of 1812 appearance during a three-year makeover, a spokesman said.
By Frances Burns  |  Aug. 29, 2014 at 5:34 PM
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BOSTON, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- The USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned ship of war in the U.S. Navy, went for a final sail Friday before a three-year rehab.

The vessel, nicknamed Old Ironsides, will make one more trip across the Boston Harbor in October, said Peter Melkus, a spokesman. But it will be pushed by a tug instead of moving by sail power in an exhibition to mark the 217th anniversary of its launch.

Early next year, the Constitution goes into drydock. In addition to replacing copper plates on its bottom and doing other necessary repairs, the Navy plans to remove some additions made in the last couple of centuries.

"She kind of ballooned away from how she was originally constructed," Melkus said. "So one of our goals is to make her as authentic as possible to what we consider the era of her greatest popularity, the War of 1812."

The Constitution, named by President George Washington, was launched in 1797 as one of the Navy's first six frigates. The vessel fought in the First Barbary War and the War of 1812.

In 1830, when the Navy was considering decommissioning the Constitution, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a popular poem, "Old Ironsides," that helped save the ship.

Friday's trip was the third time the Constitution has moved without a tugboat since 1881, with the other sails in 1997 and 2012. The trip was the climax of a week's training for 150 Navy personnel awaiting promotion to chief petty officer, who learned how to set the topsails off a three-masted frigate.

The vessel is normally docked at the Charlestown Navy Yard as a popular tourist attraction.

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