Capt. Wes Pulver has learned what can happen to a seaman working around the waters of the North Carolina coast.

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Capt. Wes Pulver has learned what can happen to a seaman working around the waters of the North Carolina coast.

“I picked up y’all here. I can’t shake it. It’s a good word. I can’t shake it,” Pulver said Friday on the dock at the North Carolina Port at Morehead City.

Pulver is the skipper of America’s Tall Ship, the U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle, which arrived Friday on its first port of call on a 12-stop summer training tour that will take it as far south as Aruba.

“I had the opportunity to sail off of Hatteras or Onslow Bay. I was out of Wrightsville Beach for two and a half years so for me this is also homecoming,” Pulver said. “My boss lived up here at Fort Macon and I’ve come into this harbor probably 20 or 30 times on my patrol boat and it took me 25 years later to come back to Morehead City.”

The 295-foot Coast Guard training vessel arrived at Morehead City late Friday morning and several hundred toured her decks in the afternoon.

“I was just interested in seeing the tall ship when it came in today. It’s an impressive ship,” said Rick Zaccardelli, of Havelock, who took the day off work and spend his birthday looking around the decks. “Just to think that you still have ships like this that actually sail. It’s phenomenal to me. Three masts. It’s huge. I’d love to go for a ride.”

“I think it’s great for Morehead City,” said Gene McLendon, of Morehead City, who came out to see the ship with his wife June.  “Any time we can do any kind of a tourism event to bring people in it’s a good thing. We’re glad to have them here.”

Retired Coast Guardsman Dennis Pfeiffer, of Jacksonville, was impressed with the ship.

“It’s pretty neat. It would be neat to go underway with it, but those days are gone,” Pfeiffer said.  “It’s a lot of work to keep this thing up, but that’s part of the training I guess to keep all that woodwork and the brass and everything taken care of, and learning all those ropes. That’s a lot of ropes to learn. I guess it’s part of the training for discipline. Learn how to take orders and take care of all the stuff. That’s part of what they do to become officers and leaders. They have got to learn how to follow first.”

According to Pulver, the Eagle has a permanent crew of 57, a temporary assigned crew of 20, over 80 trainees on board mostly from officer candidate schools with the Coast Guard, Merchant Marine and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

After walking around on its decks, Violet and John Perschy, both 86, of New Bern, took a breather on a bench near the stern.

“The only thing I found out was that this is not as big as a destroyer, but it’s very nice, but wouldn’t want to do much time on it ‘cause I don’t want the sails,” said John Perschy, a World War II and Korean War veteran who served in the Marine Corps and Navy.

Peter Miller and Keoki Trafton,  both 12, of Emerald Island, wrote a home school report on the ship and presented it to Pulver.

“We knew the barque was coming so we got them to do a report on that and then today we wanted them to see it,” said mother and teacher Tammy Miller. “Once they see the ship they’ll have more of a personal connection to it and hopefully write a story about it.”

Senior Chief Jeremy McConnell, who is officer in charge of the U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Macon, helped establish a security perimeter around the Eagle with vessels from the station.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to see it,” McConnell said. “The Eagle is one of the biggest assets we have here in the Coast Guard. It’s a great feeling to be able to escort it in and see it first-hand. Often time you hear about it but just don’t get to see it in a career. You don’t realize how big the Eagle is. You see the masts five miles out at the sea buoy and she comes up and she’s well over 270 feet. It’s a very impressive ship.”

The masts are as tall as a 15-story building and according to Pulver, working the sails up there is one of the toughest jobs on the ship.

“It’s a lot higher up than it looks here. You look up and say ‘I can do that’ but if you ever lean  over and look down a 15 story building it looks a lot higher when you’re up there than when you’re down on the deck, so I have great respect for those people that climb,” Pulver said. “Some people don’t like to climb 15 stories and handle sail, but we just about all have to do it. Every job on here is equally important, from the engineer that’s making rounds and making sure we’re sailing safely to the person who is in charge of scullery and doing the dishes to person who’s climbing the mast, or the captain. We all have an important role to make the ship work. At the end of the day we handle all of the sails and it’s just a thrill to watch young men and women come together in this environment.”

“One of our goals is to make them cold, wet and tired,” Pulver said. “This exposes you to everything. It exposes you to the weather, to the environment, the seas. You feel them more. You have to rely on the weather. This vessel just requires people to understand the weather, to understand what it means to be out on deck, to be cold, to be wet. We had seas coming over once or twice this run where everyone got really wet. It’s 35 degrees, but they still have got to get the job done. You can’t do that on a modern ship. We have to handle the sea. We have to handle the lines and boy it teaches you a lot about what it is to be out on the ocean. It is an unforgiving environment.   This carries young men and women a long way in their careers.”

The ship is open to the public both for tours both Saturday and Sunday at the port. Tours will be available on a first come, first serve basis from  10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, contact the Port Authority at 252-726-3158.

Perschy said it’s worth the trip to see the ship, which was confiscated from Germany in 1946 following World War II.

”It’s worth coming to see,” Perschy said. “You get to see what this is all about and what these people do.”