ST. PETERSBURG — On a night not long ago, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Eagle was sailing from St. Maarten to Aruba when a storm began to rage.
Juaquin Reyes Carreno, 19, a cadet in the United States Coast Guard Academy, was working the night shift. His orders: take down the sails. Fitted with a harness, he climbed 147 feet to the top of not one mast, but two. Lightning streaked overhead. The rain stung like needles.
"There were moments," he said, "where I was like, 'Oh my God. There's so many things I haven't done in life.' "
Carreno recalled the story Friday afternoon at the Port of St. Petersburg, where the calm, sunny scene wasn't quite so dramatic. Hundreds of people stood in a line nearby, waiting for free tours of the 295-foot steel ship. The Eagle, which serves as a training vessel for academy cadets and officer candidates, will open to the public again Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
This is the last stop on the Eagle's latest voyage, which began in Connecticut about five weeks ago.
As Carreno directed people to the exit, Cliff and Juli Boltwood, both 31 and from Bradenton, stepped off the ship's boarding ramp, six kids in tow (not all their own).
One liked the bell the most. Another thought the sails were much cooler. The ship's size, each agreed, was astonishing.
And had the visit inspired any of them to consider joining the Coast Guard someday?
"Sort of," said Dalton Knueppel, 12.
"Kind of, yeah," said Madison Boltwood, 11.
"No," said Drew Rowell, 12. "It's too scary."