6 – 7 pm
A Perfect Lady is a photographic look at “America’s Tall Ship,” the three-masted barque Eagle. Author Tido Holtkamp has compiled more than 280 fascinating images (many from private collections) with captions documenting the 70-plus years of the Eagle’s history as both a German and American sail training ship.
Commissioned by Adolf Hitler as a German navy training vessel, the 295-foot (sparred length) Segelschulschiff (sail school ship) Horst Wessel was built in 1936 at the Blohm & Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany, posthumously named after a hero of the Nazi movement. Following World War II, the Horst Wessel was claimed as a war prize by the United States, commissioned in the U.S. Coast Guard and renamed Eagle.
The book’s title comes from a statement by the ship’s first American commanding officer, Captain Gordon McGowan. On the Eagle’s voyage from Bremerhaven to her new home at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT in 1946 (with a crew comprised of U.S. Coast Guard personnel and German sailors), during which she weathered a hurricane, “Captain McGowan discovered that the ship handled extremely well and that she reacted to commands like a perfect lady.”
As the only tall ship in a military service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle has sailed the world. She’s hosted countless dignitaries and heads of state, led parades of sail and acted as the nation’s goodwill ambassador on numerous occasions.
Coast Guard cadets and officer candidates put navigation, engineering and other skills learned at the Academy into practice aboard the Eagle, handling her 23 sails (22,245 square feet) and over six miles of running rigging. More than 200 lines must be coordinated during a major maneuver and cadets must learn the name and function of each.
Holtkamp has a special connection to the ship – he served aboard the Horst Wessel as a German naval cadet for six months in 1944. After the war, he emigrated to the U.S. and settled in Connecticut. While crossing the Gold Star Memorial Bridge over the Thames River more than 40 years ago, he spied his old ship. He’s sailed on her many times, becoming friends with many captains and crew.
A Perfect Lady is available from Flat Hammock Press at 860-572-2722 or flathammockpress.com.