SALEM — The Coast Guard's tall ship returns to Salem this weekend.

The barque Eagle, a 295-foot tall ship run by the U.S. Coast Guard as a training cutter for cadets, will pull into Blaney Street Wharf on Friday morning with 50 permanent crew and about 150 cadets.

All the while, visitors will be allowed to tour the ship Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for free. 

"She'll be open to the public, free of charge," said Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem. "People always love to come visit the Eagle. It's a really nice ending to Heritage Days week."

While in Salem, the ship will go through a "swab phase swap-out," where the 150 cadets on board will be released and another 150 will move onto the ship for its eventual departure from Salem on Monday morning.

"We have swabs, an incoming class (from the Coast Guard Academy) that is yet to be recognized," said Salem Harbormaster Bill McHugh. "What they do is come on at different stages, and we are going to do a swap-out in Salem."

The barque Eagle was originally built for Nazi Germany in 1936 and used to train cadets in the German Navy. The ship came into the United States' hands as part of war reparations at the end of World War II, at which point it left Germany and moved to its new homeport in New London, Connecticut.

Since then, the ship has played a valuable role in Coast Guard training efforts.

"These aren't the average enlisted Coast Guardsmen. These are the ones going to the Academy," McHugh said. "It's part of their orientation."

Late Saturday morning, three motorcoaches full of fresh cadets will arrive at Blaney Street Wharf to take their places aboard the ship, McHugh said.

The barque Eagle was most recently in Salem in 2016, when she arrived at the tail end of July on a rainy day and docked alongside the Salem Harbor Footprint site, which was then under construction. The power plant is now up and running.  

Still, Blaney Street Wharf has the same security measures that existed the last time the Eagle landed in Salem.

"We don't want any large bags going on-board, so people should keep their large bags, knapsacks (at home), just bring the absolute bare essentials," McHugh said. "Be prepared to go through a security checkpoint. Anything that's carried will be looked at and gone through."

Fox encouraged anyone driving to Derby Street for tours to park at the South Harbor Garage just down the road, as parking near the site will be very limited.

The Eagle isn't the only tall ship to visit Salem during Heritage Days. The weeklong festivities opened with the tall ship Kalmar Nyckel and the Viking ship Polaris. Both were in Salem for the Maritime Festival last weekend.

"Tall ships make nice bookends," Fox said, adding that Salem's tall ship, Friendship, is also home for Heritage Days for the first time since going into drydock at the Gloucester Marine Railways for repairs in 2016. "It's great having Friendship back, and the tours that the National Park Service is doing daily. ... Even though she isn't rigged, she's still a fascinating vessel.

Dustin Luca may be contacted at dluca@gloucestertimes.com.