July 21, 1997 in Nation/World

After 116 Years, Uss Constitution To Sail

Compiled From Wire Services

Accompanied by a fleet of sailboats and modern Navy ships, the oldest commissioned warship afloat left its berth Sunday.

The USS Constitution was towed to Marblehead, where it was to sail in Massachusetts Bay today under its own power for the first time in 116 years.

Thousands of people, on land and on sea, watched as the USS Constitution arrived in Marblehead Harbor on Sunday.

A flotilla of boats, from wood-paneled yachts to kayaks, floated around the Constitution, filling Marblehead Harbor as the 200-year-old ship came into sight through the craggy edges of Boston’s North Shore.

The ship’s most famous visit to Marblehead Harbor was on April 3, 1814, when she sought shelter from two 38-gun British frigates, the HMS Tenedos and the HMS Junon.

The captain of the ship, Charles Stewart, lightened his load by tossing overboard the ship’s water, liquor, and wood kept for repairs.

Nearly a third of the ship’s crew were from Marblehead, so the Constitution had little problem making it safely into the harbor.

The British ships wouldn’t risk the unfamiliar terrain and didn’t want to face Fort Sewall’s guns.

The ship and her modern-day crew were welcomed to Marblehead again Sunday with a proclamation and key to the town.

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