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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Feb. 27, 2023

Same but different; Eagle’s sister ship holds true to its vintage origin

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Matt Thieme, Coast Guard Academy External Affairs

“America’s Tall Ship”, the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, is recognized around the world as the flagship of the world’s greatest Coast Guard. What isn't as well known, is that one of its sister ships, the NRP Sagres III, is still operational as a training ship for the Portuguese navy.

Despite having the same origin, the Eagle and the Sagres have lived very different lives, each changing names, home ports, and operational missions. But even after almost a century of service, both ships have remained training ships, continuing to teach the naval officers of the future.

During the 2022 Coast Guard Academy Summer Training period, 1st Class Cadet Hannah Bliss had the unique opportunity to spend time aboard the Sagres. Underway for several weeks, Bliss experienced both the similarities and differences from the Eagle firsthand.

“I love tall ships,” said Bliss “the ships just have so much character and personality.”

In her time at the Academy, Bliss has taken every opportunity to serve underway aboard Eagle and is familiar with the entire ship. So, when presented with an opportunity to get underway on one of the sister ships, she took it, despite not speaking Portuguese.

“Luckily everybody spoke English,” said Bliss. These types of immersive experiences are part of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s leadership program that helps prepare cadets for the rigors of military service and transforms them into the next generation of Coast Guard leaders.

At first glance, the Eagle and the Sagres have a different paint job. However, the differences run from mainmast to keel. The Sagres is much closer to its original configuration than the Eagle, which has been refitted and updated to align with its mission throughout the years.

“It’s super original, vintage almost,” Bliss recalled.

In addition to the sail and rigging configuration, the ships are also dramatically different below deck. While Eagle has been updated to provide more modern berthing arrangements, Sagres has a more open deck arrangement. Most of the crew and trainees berth in massive rooms, reminiscent of old pirate ships rather than a modern training vessel.

“Logistically speaking, it’s a much more logical layout,” says Bliss, “but there isn’t much co-ed support or privacy.”

In a crew of more than 100, Bliss was one of only 12 women. Due to the limited living quarters for women, Sagres doesn’t provide the same opportunity for female sailors as the Eagle does.

The ship's differences don’t stop at design, aboard Sagres, the duty section scheduling also differs from Eagle. The assignments of duties and responsibilities were very different from the roles assigned aboard Eagle, which proved an opportunity for Bliss to both learn and excel.

“It wasn’t just the watch that was different,” Bliss explained “your responsibility was different too.”

Bliss recalled how she was able to share her knowledge from Eagle with her duty section, as well as personally learning a new set of leadership roles and understanding different approaches to accomplish the mission. 

Of course, the differences in life aboard were present in the crew’s downtime as well. Bliss said the food was phenomenal, and meal periods were longer and more social. When asked what the most shocking difference was, Bliss’s answer was simple.

“There was naptime!” Bliss laughed.

Despite being nearly a century old, both the Eagle and the Sagres serve as operational units for their countries today. Their service in teaching the sailors of tomorrow builds a respect for the traditions and ways of the sea. If offered the opportunity to get underway again on the Sagres, Bliss says she would go in a heartbeat. “Next time though, I would bring more books.”