Eagle to enter final phase of $28 million overhaul

The United States Coast Guard barque Eagle approaches Fort Trumbull State Park in New London on May 5, 2016. The Eagle soon will enter the final phase of a maintenance project that will, among other things, install a new engine in the ship.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
The United States Coast Guard barque Eagle approaches Fort Trumbull State Park in New London on May 5, 2016. The Eagle soon will enter the final phase of a maintenance project that will, among other things, install a new engine in the ship. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

New London's favorite tall ship, the Coast Guard barque Eagle, is about to enter into the final phase of a $28 million maintenance project to extend the ship's life by 15 years.

The Eagle will dock this weekend in New York, where it will drop off the last contingent of new Coast Guard Academy cadets on board for summer training, before heading to Virginia to pick up officer candidates for their training cruise.

In early September, the ship will return to the Coast Guard yard in Baltimore, its temporary home since 2014, when the maintenance project began. Many of the Baltimore yard's nearly 550 employees will spend the ensuing six months working on some aspect of the Eagle's maintenance, and will have to work around winter weather and a tight schedule.

Built in 1936 by the Nazis, the Eagle last underwent a major overhaul from 1978 to 1982.

The latest overhaul is being carried out in four phases to maintain the Eagle's summer training schedule.

This fourth and final phase will be the most complex, according to Lt.j.g. Charles Lortz, ship superintendent at the Baltimore yard, because it will involve replacing the ship's main propulsion system, including a new German-made engine. The Eagle's current, diesel-powered engine has been in use since about 1985.

This phase of maintenance will require cutting large holes in the ship in order to remove the engine. The pilot house, from which the ship is navigated, will have to be removed to make space for the engine to be hoisted out. The yard is building a specific lifting rig to remove the engine, Lortz said.

Previous maintenance included refurbishing living quarters, upgrading the HVAC system onboard, lead remediation and hull plate renewal, among other upgrades.

Eagle's homeport is expected to shift back to New London in 2019. The ship was expected to return to New London in 2018. Officials did not provide a reason for the date being pushed back.

j.bergman@theday.com

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