You Cant Have Fun With a Problem...
will Never Solve it
Up the Constitution
of 1996 the U.S.S. CONSTITUTION sailed
for the first and last time in the 20th Century
- and it is said, for the last time ever. The Navy
announced that it does not intend to sail the ship
again. I think, if true, that this says a great deal
us as a Nation - and what it says is not good.
U.S.S. CONSTITUTION, as almost everyone
knows, is by far the oldest commissioned war ship
in the world.
She is also an incredible sailing vessel that has
been meticulously restored. I have been on this ship
several times and, of all the Tall
Ships [link: tall ships] in the world, she is a wonder and ready
to take an active part in the fleet. The Navy says
it would be unsafe to sail her - if this be so, the
reasons are not readily apparent. I have been around
wood structures all my life and an active sailor
of a good-sized wood sailing vessel [link: camelot] for over 15 years.
CONSTITUTION, by any standard, cannot be
better restored or maintained.
Unless there is some hidden
flaw, which would raise other questions after the
millions spent and the quality of the work that was
clearly accomplished. This dangerous aspect
must have something to do with something other than
the sailing ability of CONSTITUTION herself.
Butch [link: captain butch] spent time on CONSTITUTION and,
like me, believes her to look flawless. Her diagonal
bracing has been replaced and her hog is gone.
Most of the spars have been replaced and her sails,
although not a complete set, are new. What is the
time I visited CONSTITUTION I asked the Mate. His
(Navy PR) reasons were that she is a National Treasure
and too precious to risk. I suggested that CONSTITUTION could be sailed conservatively and productively,
and that given her shape, it did not seem that there
was too much risk involved. He said that she would
have to be escorted because someone hostile to the
U.S. may want to do her damage - being a National
Icon. This escorting, he explained, cost money. Another
issue he went on to say was crew size - there were
not enough trained seaman to sail her. I noted that
the Navy needed to train anyway and escorting the
CONSTITUTION seemed as good as any way to do it.
Protecting National Icons, somehow, seems to be part
of what our military should be doing. In addition,
I proposed that the Navy Academy maintained a very
extensive fleet of sailing vessels still believing,
apparently, that sail training was a good thing for
future navel officers. Further, I proposed that many
citizens would pay worthy amounts of money for a
real sailing experience aboard CONSTITUTION. He agreed
that all these are feasible ideas but that the Navy
says no. Why?
wooden sailing vessel is expensive to maintain. The
most expensive way to keep one is tied to a dock.
Salt water and sailing are good for a wooden ship.
Fresh water and no action make a bad combination. When a ship is
sailed small things break and get replaced in real
time. Properly sailed, a wooded ship gets better
over time and big problems rarely remain hidden.
one of the best designed and built ships of her type.
In 54 engagements no enemy ever succeeded
in putting a cannon ball through her sides. She was
very large and powerful for a frigate and never lost
a battle. She was fast. She could - and did - outfight
anything fast enough to catch her and she could out
sail anything large enough to defeat her. Even when
50 plus years old, on her last cruise, she sailed
hull-down, in a matter of hours, an entire fleet
of ships leaving Gibraltar. CONSTITUTION was
perfect for her intended use, a lucky ship
that commanded great loyalty from her crews and commanders.
she IS a symbol of what this country can
do - and stood for. She is fully commissioned and
sits at the dock when she could be continuing service
and namesake. What is the problem?
the nation that built her, now, incapable of using
her? In fact, is her present situation the truly
accurate symbol of our culture today?
are always reasons not to do something - and
“good” ones to. In the cause of the CONSTITUTION,
the litany makes a long list: “she is too old and
“We might lose
her in an accident.” “Someone could get hurt.” “It
costs money and the budget will not allow it.” “Fewer
will get to see her if she sails a lot.” “We dont
know how to sail her today.”
see if these objections hold up:
is too old and fragile.
does age have to do with it? At 200 years plus, CONSTITUTION is
in better shape than the vast majority of ships
on the water. Capability is what counts - the basic
structure of this ship has been restored - anything
else can be repaired and upgraded as required.
ship was designed to fire broadsides at a time,
sail in hurricanes and haul supplies for several
seaman sustaining them for months at a time at sea.
She has been fought, grounded and sailed in weather
no one, in any ship at any time - including today - would deliberately
go into. By merely being prudent and sailing
conservatively, CONSTITUTION can
be held within an envelope that keeps her easily
inside her present design limits. CONSTITUTION,
we are told, was returned to original specifications
with materials equal to or better than first
used. In over 200 years, most of the ship has
It is the idea, the design that remains
- and that is a good as it ever has been. History
that this is a solid ship.
Constitution is robust and designed to be modified.
But only according to her nature and with prudence.
might lose her in an accident.
to me that we already have lost her in an accident
an accident of will. There is risk
in sailing this ship as there is with any other.
and proper skill will attenuate the risk. Not
keeping these skills may be a bigger risk, however.
the will to use the ship as she was designed
to be used may be a bigger, and in the end, an
risk. It would be unfortunate to lose her physically
- but we already have lost her metaphysically.
It would be a rare circumstance to have a total
even if there was an incident. She avoided total
lose in over a half a century of active duty,
sailing without aid, engine, and in hostile waters.
match this performance today?
we might lose the Constitution in an accident of
history may be the major metaphor of our day. Lets
hope it does not become a reality.
could get hurt.
It is an all volunteer military and learning to
deal with risk is one
aspect of the training. There are Tall Ships
predominately sailed by teen-age Cadets. Most of
the risk associated
with the old sailing days is greatly mitigated
modern electronics, communication systems, proper
food and medical knowledge. I suspect that sailing CONSTITUTION is
safer than crossing the streets of New York city.
This is a
fear cause us not to apply the Constitution to our
modern needs and context?
costs money and the budget will not allow it.
The budget! In
the worlds richest Nation the budget is
a mantra used whenever someone doesnt want
to do something. I bet that this could be made
into a net income generator for the Navy. What
contribute just to see CONSTITUTION sail?
What would they pay to spend a week on her as
a deck hand? What might advertisers pay for (tasteful)
of her persona and image in ads. Or. perhaps,
the government might want to keep that IP to
positioning the USA brand, globally. We certainly
spend a great deal more doing this in less
real and far less effective ways.
you imagine someone saying that the Constitution
cannot be fit into the budget? That money is more
important? We have a great deal of money but only
people will get to see her if she sails a lot. CONSTITUTION is
a must see when in Boston but I suspect that more
people would see her if she sailed with the international
Tall Ships fleet. There have been times in the
she was hauled from U.S. port to port so that she
could be enjoyed by a larger audience. Why not
sail her from port to port? Why not let people
the real thing? No, I didnt say
it is time to take our Constitution abroad rather
than our military industrial complex [link: making rights].
dont know how to sail her today.
now, there is one good answer to this: learn
how! This is, of course, is the point. As we move
a more technically supported society, and as
our life become vicarious in nature, we need
to experience life and technology in a primary
Else, we loose
the feel of it. When this primary feel is lost
we risk becoming cerebral monsters poor designers
and abusers of technology [link: the monkeys paw]. When CONSTITUTION was
last sailed, the Navy had to be trained by a private
This is not a good sign. This is a case where
the reason given for not doing something is the
best reason for doing it.
is an old saying about constitutions: “use it or
have a bias, of course, but it seems that every reason
that I was given is pure fluff. Or, it is a symptom
of a deeper issue - which disturbs me even more if
it is a true reflection of our society. I myself,
do not believe it is. I believe, if they had the
facts in hand, that the vast majority of people would
want the ship used. Talk to the sailers
who sailed CONSTITUTION on her 200th birthday
- see how their eyes shine - you will get the idea.
She is not something to look at, she is something
use - to sail!
is a comprehensive history of CONSTITUTION written
by one of her recent Captains. Read it yourself and
decide if this most fortunate ship is
ready to sit at the dock for the next 100 years or
if her spirit is better expressed out in the medium
for which she was designed.
setting the space in a Taylor environment we tell
the knowledgeWorkers that “everything speaks.” Every
aspect of the environment has something to say, expresses
an idea and attitude. In architecture, theme [link: theme in architecture] is
the means to integrate the whole with the parts.
It is how a unified message is created - how a building
speaks in one voice. Even in common buildings, and
poorly done architecture, there is a theme -
it is too often a theme of disunity, distraction,
loss of integrity. A “non-theme” but
a theme nevertheless.
seems to me that the frigate CONSTITUTION has
more in common with it’s namesake than is at first
apparent. Our Constitution is respected and honored
although is nature is understood by few and taught
to almost no one. It is brought out on the 4th of
July and paraded around but rarely ever sailed in
a serious way. When someone wants to get an agenda
across it is used as a club the shut up the opposition
- after all, who wants to argue with sacred things?
It seems, particularly in recent times, to be tied
to dock - a curiosity and attraction. Something to
show the kids but not something to take seriously.
After all, we are in modern times now. Who needs
the CONSTITUTION when you have a whole Navy
that can blow away any inconvenience that may crop
don’t think much of the past in our country.
We do not study history too seriously. We wrap it
in red white and blue and play band music. Most of
the past is forgotten. That part we remember we turn
into an unused icon.
this way we disrespect our past and discount our
the Constitution is a “national treasure too
precious to risk,” what does this foretell?
Will we let fear and to loss of use and the rigor of learning prevent us
from learning how to sail her? Will we not let her
sail the world and
in harms way? Will we lose the courage of our own
convictions for lack of experience? Will we teach
our children that she is an artifact to admire but
not a living thing to use?
the CONSTITUTION had a voice - if we could
listen - what do you think would be her choice? One
who speaks for the Constitution today?
January 24, 1998
voice of this document:
VISION STRATEGY EVALUATION
click on graphic for explanation of SolutionBox
January 24, 1998
May 18, 2003
• 19980124.345209.mt • 19990323.666622.mt •
• 20030518.296400.mt •
Taylor 1998, 2003
this document is about 50% finished