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July 15, 2010

A 200-year-old sailing lesson

Friendship helps train Navy crew for USS Constitution

(Continued)

Ironically, the end came for the first Friendship after she was captured by the British in the War of 1812.

"We're trying to keep alive the institutional memory of how to do these things," said John Pydynkowski, also of the Park Service, nodding to the blue-clad sailors. "They've been training with us at the dock all summer."

"And it's great duty," said Naval Airman Michael Fleck, who hails from the South Shore and learned sailing at the Hull Yacht Club. "It's a chance to do things that a lot of people in the Navy don't get to do."

Bob Newmyer of Newburyport is a modern version of the Friendship sailors. Not only a Park Service volunteer, he is a Merchant Marine officer who has sailed the world on massive oceangoing cargo ships.

"It's one of those things," he said. "Either it's for you or it's not for you. I enjoy it."

The vessel sailed near a huge, squat, black cargo carrier large enough to fit several Friendships inside. Newmyer pegged her as a "car ship," carrying automobiles. He's sailed ships nearly twice its size, which impressed listeners.

But if the big ship attracts them, everything else in the water — ferries, pleasure boats, tugs, cargo ships — seems to linger over Friendship. Her engines go quiet, the sheets fill out fat with wind, hearts quicken and the deck slants so those onboard must adjust to stay upright.

The spectators on other boats pull out their cameras, they smile and wave and feel fortunate just at having seen her pass.

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