Thursday, March 21, 2013

Onboard the USS Constitution

Recently I had the great good fortune to make a pilgrimage to Boston for the sake of going aboard USS Constitution. I had talked about the subject for so long that, no doubt unable to listen to me go on about it any longer, my girlfriend made a belated christmas present out of the vacation. We took the train up on a Thursday morning, and spent several days touring the historical sites and wandering around the commercial districts, returning on Sunday. The best hotel deal we found was at the Harborside Inn on State street. I'd recommend the place, it was clean and comfortable and conveniently located. And better stil, there is a lovely model of the Constitution in the lobby by the elevators. If you look hard you can just see the reflection of my girlfriend Lysa looking - inexplicably - unimpressed. (She was actually an incredibly good, cheerful enthusiastic travelling companion the whole time, but I do like to tease her).

The day we arrived we went to the Boston Tea Party Museum. I confess to being attracted principally by the replica merchant ships one can go aboard there:

On board, a very congenial mannequin captain will allow you to snoop around in his cabin. Very hospitable of him, I think, especially since he is clearly pressed with paperwork.

On Friday morning we set out on the Freedom Trail itself, an actual trail or line, sometimes in red brick and sometimes in paint, that begins at Boston Common and winds its way through the city taking tourists to various sites of historical interest. We enjoyed this a lot, and many pictures were taken. However in the interest of space I'm going to confine myself in this post to ship-related imagery.

At the end of the Freedom Trail (I'd say it took us between four and five hours to get there, at our leisurely pace and stopping for lunch) one reaches the real destination. This was my first good shot of the ship, seen through the gaps in a chain fence. You can see that the topgallant masts are lowered down onto the tops. At this point I was beaming like a child, an expression that apparently didn't leave my face the entire time.

USS Constitution seen from the starboard side on a sunny winter's day:

The genuine smashers - carronades on the quarterdeck:

Down below, on the main gun deck now. At this position (port side, just in front of the captain's cabin) a friendly sailor is stationed by a display of different sorts of ammunition, and he will talk to you about the weaponry or whatever you'd like to pick his brain about. It was neat to listen to him speak of how the crew would respond to different situations in the first person plural: "if we could come into close range we would try to clear their decks with grape shot, which you see here." It's not just a museum ship, the crew consider themselves part of the living tradition of the ship and the men who served on her in her relative youth.

 Looking forward along the port side battery on the main gun deck. You can see that they are currently doing renovation work on the ship, which sadly meant that we couldn't go below this deck.

Inside the first of the captain's several cabins now.

And here is the bed on the starboard side, behind the room shown above. This is a mirror image of the same accommodation found on the port side. If memory serves, in between was another room we were not allowed to enter. I may be misremembering that though.

Here is the view looking forward along the port side of the ship, from the quarter gallery.

And back up top again, looking forward along the port side of the deck. 

Looking up at the dizzying heights of the masts. And these aren't even extended to their full height, as noted earlier. They would be a good deal taller with the topgallant masts were raised. Just imagine climbing the ratlines while the ship was swaying wildly in severe weather on a tossing sea.

I never cease to marvel at the intricacy of the rigging. 

At the bow of the ship, the bowsprit itself. Note the steps leading up its length, with a line on either side for safety.

Saying goodbye to the ship. A view across the water at the port side. The next day we walked all the way back to be able to go through the USS Constitution museum, which will tell you about the history of the ship and the men who served on her, as well as giving a lot of general information about life at sea at the time. And there are a great deal of ship models in it.

I can't tell you how much fun it was to be on board such a famous vessel from such a fascinating era in the nation's history, in world history. Lysa was kind enough to document my goofy grin. I'm wearing it again as I look through these pictures.


  1. I wish I had a girlfriend who would take me on trips to Boston. You must be a really lucky guy. :)

  2. Nice one Goofy!