The Coast Guard's Barque Eagle, a tall ship built by the Germans in 1936 and taken by the United States after World War II, kicked off its 75th anniversary tour at Penn's Landing yesterday.
The ship - originally known as the Horst Wessel - first set sail as United States property on May 20, 1946, when it left from Bremerhaven, Germany.
Shockingly, even though the crew was formed with 10 U.S. and 10 German sailors only months after the war ended, tensions were subtle, said Emil Babish, a sailor who was on the maiden voyage.
"I was too busy working with the engines all the time with my German counterpart that we didn't have time to get in a fight," Babish said. "We always had to work together for the six months of the voyage."
But an infamous boxing match did occur on the trip.
"There was a boxing match between a German and American that was called a draw to alleviate any tensions," Babish said. "The judge later told me that the American did have the upper hand, though."
Besides having to get along on the maiden voyage, the ship also got stuck in a hurricane near Bermuda.
"All the sails got shredded from the wind, except for the top sail, and we were following the sea, which is a dangerous situation," Babish said. "At one point, the ship almost capsized as the captain was trying to turn the boat around to sail into the waves and everyone was on the deck to pull the lines."
Babish attended a welcome reception last night at the Independence Seaport Museum along with Horst Boettge, a German merchant marine who trained on the ship for four weeks in 1944 as a 14-year-old.
"I fondly remember going up on over the mast on ratlines as part of basic training," Boettge said.
The Eagle, which makes its home in New London, Conn., will leave Monday for Waterford, Ireland.
"I've always loved going to sea on the Eagle, which uses mostly just the sails as power," said Capt. Eric Jones. "We get to train cadets as future Coast Guard officers and it is an honor and highlight of my career."
Free tours of the ship are being held today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Penn's Landing.