Military News Military Branches Navy

How you can sail aboard the US Navy’s oldest active warship

The Navy's oldest active warship and the world's oldest ship still afloat. You could sail on it through a social media contest.
Miguel Ortiz Avatar
oldest active warship
(U.S. Navy)

Going underway aboard an active U.S. Navy warship is not something the average American can do. VIPs and members of the press are sometimes invited to cruise aboard ships off the line, but not everyday civilians. Even rarer is the opportunity to sail aboard the USS Constitution, the Navy’s oldest active warship and the world’s oldest ship still afloat. However, that’s exactly what the Navy is offering with a social media contest.

USS Constitution under repair
Constitution undergoes repairs in 1858 (Public Domain)

The USS Constitution is a three-masted heavy frigate. Launched in 1797, she is one of the six original U.S. Navy frigates authorized under the Naval Act of 1794, after the dissolution of the Continental Navy. Serving as the new nation’s capital ships, Constitution and the other frigates were more heavily armed than standard frigates of the era.

USS Constitution vs. HMS Guerriere
USS Constitution vs. HMS Guerriere, 19 August 1812 (U.S. Navy/Anton Otto Fischer)

During the War of 1812, Constitution made her mark by defeating five warships of the British Royal Navy, including HMS Guerriere. During the battle with Guerriere, Constitution‘s thick oak hull caused many of the British cannonballs to bounce off harmlessly. This led to the ship’s nickname, “Old Ironsides.” Meanwhile, Constitution‘s guns inflicted so much damage that Guerriere was deemed not worth towing to port and burned at sea.

oldest active warship in 1997
In 1997, Constitution sailed under her own power for the first time in 116 years (U.S. Navy)

Constitution‘s reputation as “Old Ironsides” cemented its place in naval history. In the 1840s, she continued serving as the flagship in the Mediterranean and African squadrons and circumnavigated the globe. During the Civil War, she served as a training ship for the U.S. Naval Academy. Constitution retired from active service in 1881 and became a museum ship in 1907. Today, “Old Ironsides” remains a commissioned Navy ship. Along with her crew of active duty sailors, Constitution hosts educational programs, special events and ceremonies. Although the ship is open to the public to tour, coming along on one of her rare underways is a rare treat.

constitution oldest active warship
Constitution‘s anchor at the Charlestown Navy Yard (facebook.com/ussconstitutionofficial)

To celebrate the ship’s “225th year around the sun,” “Old Ironsides” is hosting monthly social media contests throughout the next year. Two winners will be selected at the end of each month. Each winner will be able to bring one guest for an underway aboard the USS Constitution. “During the month of August, post a photo/video of you with an anchor or with USS Constitution’s anchor and use the hashtag #anchorsaweigh and don’t forget to tag us,” the ship’s social media accounts posted.