USS Constitution Leaves Charlestown

USS Constitution Leaves Charlestown

USS Constitution and her crew headed underway from the ship’s berth in Charlestown, Mass. Oct. 19, in commemoration of the ship’s launching day 215 years ago.

This was the last of this year’s five scheduled underway demonstrations for Constitution, during which the ship celebrated the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

“This has been quite a year for both the ship and the crew, and to be underway is the perfect way to celebrate her 215th birthday,” said Cmdr. Matthew Bonner, Constitution’s 72nd commanding officer. “The fact she can still go to sea and occasionally sail is a testament not only to her design, but also the dedication and skill of the people who maintain this beautiful ship.”

Constitution started boarding guests at 8 a.m., many of them family and friends of current crew members. Shortly after 10 a.m. with more than 349 guests in attendance, she departed her pier.

At 11 a.m., Constitution performed a 21-gun salute near Fort Independence on Castle Island. Fort Independence is a state park that served as a defense post for Boston Harbor at one time.

“It’s breathtaking, all the history that is here,” said Roebie Shirley, guest from Tecumseh, Okla. “Just to be aboard to touch a piece of living history that has meant so much to so many people was indescribable. I went to all the decks and saw everything. Unbelievable.”

At noon, Bonner announced Constitution’s 2012 Berenson and Leadership award winners. The Berenson award winner went to the Sailor who consistently gave the best tours of Constitution. The Leadership award went to the Sailor who demonstrated the best leadership qualities. Both awards were determined by vote of their peers.

“I felt so privileged to be given an award on the ship’s birthday in front of all my family and friends,” said Seaman Stephen Beck, Constitution’s 2012 Berenson Award winner. “History has always been a huge interest for me, and to be able to educate the public about our ship and Naval heritage is an amazing feeling.”

The ship also fired an additional 17 shots at 12:15 p.m. as she passed the U.S. Coast Guard Station, the former site of the Edmund Hartt shipyard where Constitution was built. Each round of this salute honored the 16 states that comprised America when Constitution launched in 1797 and one in honor of the ship.

The ship returned pier-side at 1 p.m.

In 1797, it took three attempts before successfully launching Constitution on October 21st. The first failed attempt happened Sept. 20 and the second two days later. She kept getting stuck in the mud due to her heavy weight and lack of incline on the building ways.

Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors per year. She defended the sea lanes against threat from 1797 to 1855, much like the mission of today’s Navy. America’s Navy: Keeping the sea free for more than 200 years.

Constitution’s mission today is to offer community outreach and education about the ship’s history.

Naval Today Staff, October 22, 2012; Image: US Navy