Tours offered Saturday & Sunday

The U.S. Coast Guard's tall ship EAGLE is in Key West Thursday through Sunday at Mallory Square. CONTRIBUTED

There’s a cool-looking ship at Mallory Square today through Sunday and will be open for tours this weekend. No, it’s not a cruise ship.

The U.S. Coast Guard Eagle, a three-masted Barque, is the largest tall ship flying the Stars and Stripes and the only active square-rigger in U.S. government service. The ship was built in 1936 in Germany and commissioned as Horst Wessel, one of three sail training ships operated by the pre-World War II German navy. At the close of World War II, Horst Wessel was taken as a war reparation by the United States, recommissioned as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle and has trained thousands of Coast Guard men and women ever since 1946.

Eagle provides an at-sea leadership and professional development experience for future officers of the U.S. Coast Guard, one of the smallest but arguably the busiest of the U.S. armed forces. A seasoned permanent crew of eight assigned officers and 50 assigned enlisted personnel maintain the ship and provide a strong base of knowledge and seamanship for the training of up to 153 cadets or officer candidates at a time.

Augmented by temporary crew during training deployments, Eagle routinely sails with over 230 hands on board. Eagle offers future officers the opportunity to apply the navigation, engineering and other professional theory that they have learned in the classroom. Concurrently, they must handle the challenges of living aboard and working a large square-rigger at sea in order to build the teamwork, character, and leadership skills necessary for success in the service.

As a floating goodwill ambassador for US diplomatic relations, Eagle welcomes the public to visit during domestic port calls. Guests may walk her teak wood decks, gaze at her vast sails and rigging, and explore her historic spaces and the galley.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.