SALEM — Before Friday, it had been more than 20 years since Coast Guard Rear Adm. Andrew Tiongson set foot on the barque Eagle.
When he was last on the tall ship, "I was a cadet like these folks," Tiongson, 52, said, referencing the roughly 150 Coast Guard Academy cadets who were wrapping up their weeklong assignment on the Eagle as it arrived Friday in Salem.
"It's very grounding for me," said Tiongson, commander of the First Coast Guard District and a Beverly resident. "It hasn't changed that much. All these pin reels, and all these lines and sails, are essentially the same. There are some minor differences here and there, but it's essentially the same."
The barque Eagle, a 295-foot tall ship run by the U.S. Coast Guard as a training cutter for cadets, will remain in port at the Blaney Street Wharf in Salem until Monday morning. It's open for free tours on Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday morning, the ship will go through what's called a "swab phase swap-out," where the 150 cadets on board will be released and another 150 will move onto the ship for its eventual departure from Salem Monday morning.
With that, swabs — cadets in their first year at the academy — will move on to the final leg of Swab Summer, the academy's boot camp, according to Tiongson.
"What you get is a little bit of a taste of what it means to be a professional mariner," Tiongson said. "What this vessel does is grounds us in seamanship and knowledge of the sea as we go through our education. That’s the beauty of the ship, the training that it gives, the people hanging around in our service for 30 years."
The swabs are just starting that journey. Throughout their first year, they rotate through different assignments in "their basic military indoctrination," said Capt. Michael Turdo, the Eagle's 29th commanding officer.
There, cadets learn "how to live, eat, sleep and stand watch on the ship," Turdo said. "For many of them, it's the first time we're taking them out to sea. At a very basic level, it just introduces them to shipboard life, and it's when they come back as third-class rank next summer where they spend five to six weeks (on the Eagle)."
On that voyage, cadets learn the basics, Turdo said — including using paper-based navigational maps to get around when the stars aren't as visible.
"In order to understand all the modern technology that's available, you still need to understand what that technology is providing you," Turdo said. "With the third-class cadets sailing back and forth, two trans-Atlantic voyages, we'll shut off modern electronics, build upon the curriculum they get in the Academy. We're going to start to build up their navigational skills."
A swab's perspective
Gabby Doucot, a 19-year-old swab from Rowley and 2018 graduate of Triton Regional High School, was in the process of ending her week on the Eagle when it arrived in Salem.
"Obviously, Swab Summer hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows," she said, standing with her arms behind her back on the Eagle's deck. "Everybody does it coming into the Coast Guard. It's the physical aspect, mentally tough. You're always tired, but when you're doing it with everybody, everybody's doing it together."
With that, Doucot said, the connection between the swabs is one of the strongest things to come out of her time as a cadet so far.
"Me and about 20 other swabs coming into this class were (Naval Academy Preparatory School) students," she said, referencing her first year after high school. "Last year, we all spent a whole year taking college classes in preparation for coming to the Academy."
That doesn't include the roughly 40 prep students from last year who either already did a week on the Eagle or were arriving to do so Saturday, she explained.
"I've always wanted to save lives and help protect the environment, so that was huge for me. And the past week has been an incredible experience because I spent the past week sailing with my friends," Doucot said. "The relationships you make are for life, and you see that in the links in the chain (of command)."
Visiting the Eagle
Public tour schedule: Saturday, Aug. 10, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 11, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Please note the following guidelines while touring the Eagle in Salem:
No large bags (i.e. large bags, backpacks, etc). Personal bags and purses are OK. Baggage checks will be conducted prior to boarding the Eagle. Travel light — there are no on-site storage lockers, and large bags will not be allowed onboard.
Limited parking. Visitors should use public transportation, private transportation or off-site parking, due to limited parking spaces at the Salem Ferry Terminal.
Learn more about the Eagle at uscga.edu/eagle.