BOSTON (CBS) – It will be an historic weekend for an American icon. The USS Constitution, Old Ironsides, will once again sail the way she was meant to. It’s all to mark an important American victory.
If you visited the ship at the Charlestown Navy Yard Friday it looked like just another tourist day. But it’s really crunch time aboard the world’s oldest commissioned warship, getting ready to sail under its’ own power on Sunday. Commander Matthew Bonner has been working for a year to prepare ship and crew. “The ship’s in remarkable condition. Obviously she’s almost 215 years old, so you don’t take anything lightly with her,” says Commander Bonner.
The last time Constitution sailed was 1997. Sunday marks only the second time in 131 years that the ship has traveled without help. “I want people to be in awe of her beauty and her majesty. It’s like going back in history and you’re there,” says Lt. Commander Paul Brawley.
Sunday’s exercise commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Constitution’s victory over the British frigate Guerriere during the War of 1812. “It was a victory that surprised a young nation, that we beat a British frigate in a one on one sea battle,” says Anne Grimes Rand, the president of the USS Constitution Museum.
It was also the moment the ship earned its’ famous name, when a sailor saw British cannonballs bouncing off her wooden sides. “And he yelled at the captain, ‘Huzza, her sides are made of iron,’ and Capt. Hull’s response was ‘Ironsides, Aye’ and hence her nickname was born almost 200 years ago,” says Commander Bonner. “You can’t help but be moved that you have this living hero of the War of 1812, and a lot of our early nation’s battles, still doing the same thing that she did. Athough we’re not patrolling the seas, our navy today is doing those same missions of keeping the seas free. And it’s kind of connecting the past with the present,” says Commander Bonner.
The best vantage points to see the ship under sail are Castle Island and Deer Island. Constitution is scheduled to leave the Charlestown Navy Yard at 10am. At around noon, the sails will and the ship will sail under its’ own power anywhere from 10 mins. to a half hour. She returns to Charlestown at about 2pm, and will be open for visitors.