Charlestown, Massachusetts - USS Constitution and her crew headed underway from the ship's berth in Charlestown, yesterday, in commemoration of the ship's launching 220 years ago and the U.S. Navy's 242nd birthday.
This was the first underway Constitution completed since she left dry dock on July 23 of this year and the first time she has been underway since 2014.
"Being aboard Constitution today reminded me of my first underway aboard USS Nassau," said Cmdr. Robert S. Gerosa, Jr., Constitution's 74th commanding officer. Gerosa was stationed aboard USS Nassau (LHA 4) from 1998 to 2000. "I remember the excitement I felt that first day at sea in a Navy uniform. This was the first time that some of our Sailors experienced an underway. I know that they will remember this for the rest of their lives. The hard work and dedication of the crew made this day possible."
Constitution started boarding guests at 8 a.m., many of them family and friends of current crewmembers. Shortly after 10 a.m., with more than 349 guests in attendance, she departed her pier.
At 11:40 a.m., Constitution performed a 21-gun salute which was returned by the Concord Battery and 101st Field Artillery near Fort Independence on Castle Island. Fort Independence is a state park that served as a defensive position for Boston Harbor from 1634 to 1962.
"My time aboard Constitution was absolutely amazing," said Jackie Plank, a guest from Marlborough, Massachusetts. "We feel very blessed to be able to be here today, hats off to the commander and the crew. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
The ship also fired an additional 17 shots at 12:15 p.m. as she passed the U.S. Coast Guard Station, the former site of the Edmund Hartt shipyard where Constitution was built. Each round of this salute honored the 16 states that comprised America when Constitution launched in 1797 and one in honor of the ship.
"Getting Constitution back on the water has been my mission ever since I took command in 2015," said Gerosa. "To see her not only back in the water, but to also have her underway and accompanied by our crew and their family members has been one of the highlights of my navy career. Serving on this ship has been an incredible experience."
The ship returned to her berthing, Pier 1 of the Charlestown Navy Yard, at 1 p.m.
Constitution is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors per year. She defended the sea lanes against threat from 1797 to 1855, much like the mission of today's Navy. America's Navy: Keeping the sea free for more than 200 years.
Constitution's mission today is to offer community outreach and education about the ship's history.