NEW LONDON — When he was a boy, Jeffrey Glowski said he built a toy model of the ship his father sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.
Now, 76 years after the Coast Guard ship Eagle first arrived in New London, Glowski was aboard the ship he had never seen in person before.
“It was kind of sentimental, really,” Glowski said of the experience. “Unbelievable.”
Glowski’s father, Jerome Glowski, was a member of the original crew that assembled Eagle after World War II in Bremerhaven, Germany. Jerome had been stationed in Newfoundland for most of the war on submarine duty, Jeffrey said, but was one of the few to fly to Germany with Cmdr. Gordon McGowan to claim the USCG war prize, called the “Horst Wessel” at the time, as the Allies scattered the remains of the German fleet.
Glowski, 72, said his father, a radio operator aboard the Eagle, didn’t tell many stories of the maiden voyage or the crew made up of Coast Guard, former German crewmen and some former volunteers from the German Navy “borrowed” from a British Minesweeper Project.
“He talked about the hurricane,” Glowski said of his father. “It was a scary time to go through that. Not much else.”
McGowan and his crew were a day or so away from their destination when they ran into a hurricane that ripped the Eagle’s sails and caused an estimated $20,000 in damage. Glowski detailed how he, too, had been sailing once when he faced a storm that packed 70-knot winds with mainsails in the water and the boat alongside.
“That was scary,” he said.
He preferred to re-enact the other parts of his father’s tenure at Eagle, such as visiting the same radio room his father had many years ago.
Led by Eagle’s Sail Master, Chief Warrant Officer Melissa Polson, Glowski navigated the 295-foot tall ship. While the radio control room was at the top of the list, Glowski saw it all. The tour made stops at the captain’s quarters, the mess deck, the sleeping quarters. From the bow of the boat to the stern, Glowski took every step, and a few photos as souvenirs.
“I can’t imagine back then,” Glowski said, looking at a photo of Coast Guardsmen lounging in hammocks to accommodate the cramped space.
Currently, for the Coast Guard training ship, there are rows of bunks.
While modern conveniences such as electronics, cooking equipment and laundry machines have made their way to Eagle, most of the boat is original. Polson explained how parts of the hull had to be replaced and the main deck redone in the 1980s, but most of the hull, fittings and structures, and mainmast, are all original.
Between 2014 and 2018, Eagle underwent a life extension project to address the ship’s longevity, and will do so again in 2028 to address concerns over the next 15-20 years.
This winter, the ship will dry dock for a “mast overhaul,” Polson said. He explained that the foremast, running rigging, standing rigging, blocks, lines, sails and stanchions will all come off and be “checked” before it sails again.
Before Glowski “dropped off” at his home in Indiana, where he grew up with his two brothers, he gave Polson a photo of his father, sitting in Germany with Eagle in the distance. He stood in front of a photo that Polson said he shows all guests, one of Eagle in its dilapidated state in Germany, almost identical to Glowski’s photo.
Across the room hung a painting of the Eagle commissioned by the son of the ship’s original captain. Polson said Glowski’s father likely sailed the ocean with the painter aboard the ship.
“Such a unique collaboration of…” Polson said, his thoughts drifting.
“…story,” Glowski finished.