main story image for facebook sharing

History and Heritage

Constitution Celebrates 217 Years

Frigate sets sail one final time before 3-year restoration period

As the Navy prepares to say Happy 217th birthday to the USS Constitution, the ship embarked on its fifth and final Boston Harbor Underway demonstration until 2018.

"The USS Constitution is a 44-gun Frigate ... built to out run or out gun anything she came across," said Cmdr. Sean D. Kearns, USS Constitution's 73rd commanding officer. "She truly is a lens from which we can examine the importance of having a Navy and the role the Navy has played in our nation's history."


More than 600 guests were in attendance aboard America's 'Ship of State.' This was the historic warship's final Boston Harbor cruise until 2018, as she is scheduled to enter dry dock in March 2015 for a three-year planned restoration period.

"It's a period in the ship's life where we take the time to do right by the ship and while that might mean that visitors don't get the same experience they can have today for that period of time she's in dry dock, it allows us to do the restoration repairs, and do the work that needs to be done, so that we do preserve Constitution for generations and generations," said Kearns.

The underway began with a wreath-laying ceremony in commemoration of the U.S. Navy's 239th birthday and Constitution's upcoming 217th birthday on Oct. 21, and to honor all Navy Sailors who have served and lost their lives both aboard Constitution and throughout the fleet.

Following the wreath laying, Constitution's underway attendees were led in the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner by Constitution Gunner's Mate Seaman Amada Williamson, which was followed by the ship's traditional 21-gun salute to the nation off Fort Independence at Castle Island.

On the return trip back to Constitution's berth, both crew and guests alike were treated to special live musical performances by the Boston Pops and Dropkick Murphys, respectively. A Boston Pops quintet performed two musical numbers, followed by the Dropkick Murphys playing a set of nine crowd-rousing songs from the ship's spar deck main hatch, which concluded with one of their most popular hits - "I'm Shipping Up To Boston."

"Today was an amazing and very unique experience," said Chief Boatswain's Mate Christopher Haws, a Constitution crew member. "This was the culmination of everything we, as a crew, have pushed for all year - everything we've worked toward for the future of this historic command."

USS Constitution, the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat, actively defended sea lanes against global threats from 1797 to 1855. Now a featured destination on Boston's Freedom Trail, Constitution and her crew of U.S. Navy Sailors offer community outreach and education about the ship's history and the importance of naval seapower to more than 500,000 visitors each year.

*Below is a summary of the restoration work planned for USS Constitution from 2015-2018:

Fall 2014/Spring 2015 - CONSTITUTION ENTERS DRY DOCK
* Remove CONSTITUTION's upper mast sections, yards and bowsprit
* Remove all guns, ballast & rudder
* CONSTITUTION enters dry dock 1 in Charlestown Navy Yard
* Install staging, then remove copper from hull below the waterline

2015 - 2017 - ONGOING INSPECTION AND REPAIRS
* Inspect hull and replace hull planks as needed
* Inspect rigging and replace as needed
* Inspect and preserve fighting tops for all three masts

2016-2017 - ONGOING PRESERVATION PROJECTS
* Preserve all masts and yards
* Preserve ship's wheel & headboards
* Preserve gun carriages
* Preserve ship's boats

2016 - FOCUS ON BOW (front of Ship)
* Replace planking in bow
* Inspect and repair trail-boards at bow

2017 - FOCUS ON STERN (back of Ship)
* Remove, inspect, replace and repair ship's stern ornamentation
* Repairs to Captain's Cabin

2017 - CONSTITUTION RETURNS TO THE WATER
* Replace planking on gun deck and berth deck (lower decks)
* Install rudder
* Re-copper ship's hull beneath the waterline
* Reef out and re-caulk spar deck (top deck)
* Refloat ship
* Re-rig ship once afloat and return guns and furniture

Spring/Summer 2018 - CONSTITUTION RETURNS TO PIER 1, CHARLESTOWN NAVY YARD

*Note: All dates subject to change as the actual conditions of USS Constitution are inspected and discovered.