Erika Schmidt walked away from the U.S. Coast Guard’s training ship, the Eagle, with a broad smile on her face Saturday.

Schmidt, 94, of North Providence, Rhode Island, visits the USCG Eagle whenever she can. She also has something in common with the 295-foot sailing barque that is spending the weekend at Portland’s Ocean Terminal. Both she and the ship originated in Germany. The ship was built as a training vessel for German sailors in 1936. Schmidt grew up near Baden-Baden.

“The ship is so beautiful. I love it so much,” said Schmidt.

The USCG Eagle and the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, a 200-foot sailing school vessel out of Newport, Rhode Island, were in the city as part of Tall Ships Weekend, sponsored by Tall Ships Portland, a nonprofit that promotes sailing experiences for teens.

The ships were open for free tours through 7 p.m. Saturday and will be again from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

The visit coincided with the Coast Guard’s 227th anniversary. The Coast Guard was founded by an act of Congress on Aug. 4, 1790.

On Saturday hundreds of people lined up to get aboard the USCG Eagle, which is the training vessel for the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. It carries about 200 people, including officers, crew and swabs, who are the incoming academy freshmen. The swabs come from around the world. The ship also carries visitors. On Saturday a contingent from the Japanese Coast Guard was on board, along with students from West Point and the Air Force Academy.

The USCG Eagle spent the spring and summer traveling the Eastern Seaboard, from Bermuda to Canada, logging 9,000 nautical miles since April 26.

The students learn the fundamentals of navigation, using traditional charts and navigational methods, along with modern technology.

On Saturday, Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier, a public affairs representative on the Eagle, cheerfully answered questions from the crowds. People wanted to know about the nautical flags fluttering from the masts. The flags make up an international code system used by ships to communicate with another ship or with someone on shore.

Strohmaier said he doesn’t know why the part of the ship’s deck between the poop and forecastle is called the “waist,” but it is where everyone gathers for the morning muster.

Every noon the Coast Guard tests every whistle and alarm on all of its vessels.

There were a lot of questions about the clumps of fuzz attached to the rigging.

“That is baggywrinkle. It prevents the sails from chafing on the wires,” said Strohmaier.

Dina Deaton of Raleigh, North Carolina, was visiting the ship with her husband, son and grandson on the way back from a stay at Acadia National Park. She wanted to know what it was like when the ship was underway. Strohmaier told her he loved it.

“It’s probably not for the faint of heart,” concluded Deaton.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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