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Boston — As the Coast Guard barque Eagle sailed past Fort Independence in the mouth of Boston Harbor Saturday, the "Star-Spangled Banner" played at the historic fort and spectators gathered on the lawn to cheer the arrival of the tall ships.
Lili Simon, a cadet training aboard Eagle, said the patriotic display made her proud to serve in the military.
"It's awesome that everyone came out to see us," said Simon, 19, of Las Vegas, who is in her second year at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
Eagle and four other Class A tall ships arrived in Boston Saturday morning to kick off the city's Operation Sail events, which commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of the national anthem.
Boston is Eagle's last port call before it arrives home in New London for the local OpSail events, which begin Friday and continue through the weekend. Capt. Eric C. Jones, commanding officer of the Eagle, said arriving at any port is "a thrill," but there's no place like home.
"The crew is very much looking forward to celebrating OpSail there and being with their families," Jones said. The return will be "bittersweet" for him, he said, since he will hand over command of the barque in a ceremony after OpSail.
Unlike New London, where the ships will arrive in a Parade of Sail, in Boston the tall ships entered the harbor Saturday at staggered times. Eagle will lead the parade into New London July 7, which Jones said will be a "magnificent sight, especially in such a beautiful port."
Aboard Eagle Saturday, the cadets and crew shouted "heave, ho," as they hauled the lines to raise the sails. The engine was turned off near Fort Independence and at one other time so Eagle could sail part of the way in. The grand white sails and a large U.S. flag snapped in the breeze.
The Lynx, a privately owned tall ship, zipped by the Eagle on its way into port and fired a ceremonial shot from its cannon. Local boaters trailed the barque to wave and take pictures. A Coast Guard patrol boat on either side of the Eagle kept them from getting too close.
Being on the Eagle for OpSail, Laura "Lulu" Bellm said, is a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
"It's fun to watch the boats," the 18-year-old cadet from San Antonio said as she looked over the side of Eagle. "They all cheer and we have our gigantic American flag flying. It puts you in a good mood to keep going."
Carlos Camacho, an Eagle crew member, said other than being away from his wife and two children, he has loved sailing into the OpSail ports. Camacho, who was born in Colombia, had never been to Boston before Saturday.
The guests on board Eagle for its transit into Boston included Coast Guardsmen, friends and relatives, as well as military veterans. They hailed from the suburbs of Boston to cities across the country.
Hilary Fulton, one of the guests, said she wanted to give her two sons a better sense of history since everything in her hometown of Seattle, by comparison, is relatively new. Daniel Carmody of Lynn, Mass., helped bring the Eagle to the United States from Germany. The barque was first commissioned the Horst Wessel and was used as a German military training vessel. Now 84, Carmody said he was proud to climb back aboard.
Rear Adm. Daniel B. Abel, commander of the First Coast Guard District, said spending time on Eagle is the way Coast Guard officers learn about the sea and its lore. OpSail is a way for the public witness that heritage, he added.
"It's a good chance for us to showcase the Coast Guard," he said.
The tall ships from Brazil, Indonesia, Colombia and Ecuador tied up at Boston Fish Pier while Eagle sailed past the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, and gray warships from other countries to moor at the Charlestown Navy Yard next to the USS Constitution. The Brazilian ship, the Cisne Branco, also will travel to New London.
As Eagle anchored, the Greater Boston Firefighters Pipes and Drums performed and people waved and cheered from the pier. Local OpSail organizers and military officials welcomed Eagle to Boston in a brief ceremony. Jones called the reception "wonderful."
OpSail in Boston coincides with Harborfest, the city's annual July 4th celebration. Susan Park, the Boston Harborfest president, said between 2.5 million and 3 million people are expected to attend events through Thursday. About 3,000 sailors are in the city.
Looking at the Eagle next to the Constitution, the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat, Coast Guard Capt. John Healey said he was "struck by the majesty of it all." Healey is the captain of the port and commander of Sector Boston.
"It makes me proud to be an American," he said, "and proud to be a sailor."