There have been lines streaming on and off the Eagle at the Port of St. Petersburg all afternoon Friday. Hundreds of people waiting in the heat with their cameras ready, to capture it while it's here.
The Eagle is a big "bird" at 295 feet long. She's actually a sea-going classroom for future U.S. Coast Guard officers in training.
A ship like that carries some amazing memories for anyone who has had to sail it, navigate it, and live it, especially on a ship that's been in service since 1936.
We also ran into some local U.S. Coast Guard Cadets on the Eagle. Park Suski, from Seminole, Danielle McMicken from Eastlake, and Austin Cowan from Seminole.
When those sons or daughters are away at sea or on-base at a U.S. Coast Guard station, there's little time to break away, so this was a real treat for Paula Hirst and her husband. Despite driving all night and day to get here, they couldn't wait to see their son on board.
"Last night, we left Virginia Beach at 4 o'clock, hit traffic in Norfolk, and drove 13 hours down. Well, actually we didn't get to St. Pete until this morning at 7:30 and we had the wrong address, so we've been driving up and down, looking for where this is," said Hirst.
"But you made it in time," we said. "Yes! And I'm excited! My first time seeing my son come in on a boat like this, so on a tall ship, it's very exciting, I wish it were me! I'm very envious," Hirst said.
We also ran into Gerald McGill, who graduated in the 1965 class of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and had some amazing memories to share from his time on board the Eagle.
He also had a large photograph, showing the Eagle with Lady Liberty in the background, which he was presenting to the Captain of the Eagle, Wes Pulver, as a surprise.
"The picture I'm holding was originally a magazine cover put out by the alumni association, because the Eagle, when she was in the New York harbor last year for the bicentennial of the War of 1812," said Gerald McGill.
"So how exciting is it for you to see her pulling in here in St. Pete?" we asked.
"Well it's great! It's really great! I sailed the Eagle twice to Europe as a cadet and enjoyed it all. It's a lot of work sailing on it, but it's a lot of fun too, and it's a very unique experience. Couldn't be a more iconic representation of our liberty here in the U.S. Absolutely and the photographer who took this, had to wait for the ship to swing on it's anchor so it'd perfectly frame the Statue of Liberty. I intend to give that today, to the Captain on the Eagle. This has not been blown up before and I have permission from the alumni association to have it blown up and make the presentation," McGill said.
The Eagle is closed Saturday, as they shift the old cadet class out and bring the new one in. The Eagle will be open for tours from 10 to 7 Sunday. Admission is free.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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