SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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July 15, 2010

A 200-year-old sailing lesson

Friendship helps train Navy crew for USS Constitution

When the original Friendship prowled the seas on behalf of Salem’s Yankee traders, they relied on the fledgling United States Navy to keep them safe.

This summer, the rebuilt Friendship has been returning the favor, lending itself to the Navy as a learning platform, teaching 21st-century sailors how to operate an 18th-century vessel. A combined crew of Friendship volunteers and U.S. Navy sailors has been out on Boston Harbor this week, hauling on lines, climbing the rigging and unfurling the East Indiaman's massive square sails.

"It's actually given us a feeling of what we should be doing on the Constitution," said Naval Airman Trina-Jo Pardo of Dallas, Texas. "We're here to become 1812 sailors. And it's great training. It puts it in your face. It makes it more exciting."

The 29-person Navy crew is learning to sail the tall ship because their duties will soon include operating a much larger, yet similar vessel, the warship USS Constitution, built in 1797, like the original Friendship.

In sight of South Boston's Castle Island, historian and Friendship volunteer Mark Hilliard fired a salute from a replica musketoon, a once-common muzzle-loaded shotgun. The enthusiastic Hilliard put on a period costume just to pull the trigger.

"You've heard a piece of history," he said as the white smoke cleared. "That sound will be heard nowhere else."

Later came commands not much heard elsewhere, either.

"Ease the halyard," shouted the mast captain, reading from a cheat sheet. "Stopper is holding."

John Newman, a Park Service veteran long associated with the Friendship, offered, "Light strain on the lines. Don't pull 'em hard."

"Heave!" the crew chanted as they pulled. "Heave!"

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