The USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship and the only ship currently in service with the U.S. Navy that has successfully sank an enemy ship in battle, returned to the waters of Boston Harbor on Sunday.

The legendary vessel sailed into Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston National Historical Park at approximately 11:15PM after the nearby dry dock it has been in for repairs was flooded upon the completion of her restoration.  For more than two years, the ship has been undergoing a complete overhaul intended to keep it in service for years to come.

The significance of the water coming in the dry dock is the start of the evolution,” said Captain Robert S. Gerosa, Jr., commanding officer of Constitution. “It’s the start of getting Constitution back in the water. This is it, this is what we’ve been striving for the last 26 months. We are again in the water where ships need to be.”

The restoration effort saw the replacement of 100 hull planks as well as the necessary caulking and sealing to ensure the hull remains water tight.  The ship’s cutwater (on the bow of the vessel) was entirely rebuilt, and the ship’s rigging and upper masts and yards were serviced in what has become an ongoing restoration and preservation process for the seemingly limitless amount rope required to manage the ship’s sails.  The team also repaired damages caused by a vandal in May.

Perhaps the most arduous repair was to the ship’s copper sheathing below the waterline.  The sheathing, which has been in use on the vessel since 1797, protects the wood from ship worms that could eventually lead to leaks.  The sailors assigned to the Constitution actually participated in the copper restoration, working side by side with professional craftsman to replace over 2,200 sheets of copper along the hull.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Jorge Ortiz, assigned to USS Constitution, hammers a copper nail into the new copper sheets which line the hull of the ship.

All of the Detachment Boston employees take great pride in the work accomplished,” Richard Moore, Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston director, said. “The ship restorers, riggers and blacksmith are a group of skilled craftspeople who have put their talents to great use during Constitution’s dry dock restoration. Tonight’s successful undocking is the culmination of the Detachment Boston’s hard work on Old Ironsides over the past 26 months.”

Improving the USS Constitution, which was named by none other than America’s first president George Washington, without sacrificing its historical design was the primary objective of the restoration process, according to Naval History and Heritage Command Director, Sam Cox.  As far as he’s concerned, the Constitution’s serves as a means to look back upon our nation’s Naval heritage, and serves as a direct link to the birth of our nation for the advanced war vessels of today.