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New London — The Coast Guard barque Eagle returned home Friday after a busy summer commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and training hundreds of cadets.
Eagle led military and tall ships into ports across the country for the Operation Sail 2012 celebrations, including a grand entrance into New London last month with nearly all of its sails set. During that tour, roughly 550 Coast Guard Academy cadets, or more than half the student body, learned to sail aboard the barque.
Capt. Raymond "Wes" Pulver, the new commanding officer, said it was an "extraordinary summer."
"The cadets had big smiles on their faces, they were working hard and interested in the material," he said. "They are in a maritime service and we expose them to that."
While in New London for OpSail, Capt. Eric C. Jones turned over Eagle's command to Pulver. Pulver said Jones did an "extraordinary job" and he felt privileged to finish the summer training program. Jones is now the assistant superintendent at the academy.
After OpSail, Eagle traveled from New London to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Then the barque sailed south, stopping in Portland, Maine, and Newport, R.I., before arriving Friday at the pier at Fort Trumbull.
Eagle hosted 20 to 25 international students from Canada, Japan, China and France, as well as cadets from other U.S. service academies so they might experience the training as well, Pulver said. The sailing conditions were "mixed," he said, with some great moments of fun sailing but also some calm conditions.
Pulver graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1987 and sailed on Eagle as a cadet. He later served as Eagle's executive officer.
"From a personal perspective, Eagle is a wonderful ship with a wonderful crew," he said. "The crew is excited about training the cadets and representing the U.S."
Many of the freshman cadets had never sailed before this summer, Pulver said, and to see them enjoy the training, "in most cases enjoy it a lot, is special to me."
Next month, Eagle will leave again for two weeks of officer candidate training. While the crew is proud of all they've accomplished in the past four months, Pulver said, they missed Connecticut and look forward to spending time with their families.