USS Constitution ‘Old Ironsides’ sets sail in Massachusetts

Posted at 12:31 PM, Aug 20, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-20 12:35:15-04

(CNN) – The USS Constitution, or “Old Ironsides,” sailed under her own power Sunday for just the second time in some 130 years.

The Constitution set out on Boston Harbor in Massachusetts to commemorate the 200th anniversary of her victory over a British frigate during the War of 1812. The battle earned Constitution her “Old Ironsides” nickname.

“I cannot think of a better way to honor those who fought in the war as well as celebrate Constitution’s successes during the War of 1812 than for the ship to be under sail,” said Cmdr. Matt Bonner, Constitution’s 72nd commanding officer.

Some 285 people were on board the ship, which sailed under her own power for 17 minutes, traveling a distance of 1,100 yards.

Tugs were then reattached to Constitution’s sides and she returned to her pier by early afternoon. The ship, which doubles as a museum, receives more than half a million visitors each year.

Sunday’s sail marked the first time Constitution sailed on her own since 1997. Before that, the last time she sailed on her own was in 1881.

The ship, which is considered the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, is tugged into the harbor several times a year.

Constitution defended sea lanes from when she was first launched in 1797 to 1855.