Old Ironsides: The Shipping Shenanigans and Time Warp Delays

Ahoy, mateys! Today we’re going to talk about the USS Constitution, affectionately known as “Old Ironsides.” But we’re not going to talk about her legendary victories in war. Nope, we’re going to dive into her shipping shenanigans and the time warp delays that turned her into a meme-worthy icon.

So grab a mug of grog and let’s set sail on this journey.

The Birth of Old Ironsides

Old Ironsides was launched on October 21, 1797, in Boston, Massachusetts. She was one of six frigates authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794. Designed by Joshua Humphreys, she was initially built to protect America’s merchant ships from pirates during the Quasi-War with France.

On August 19, 1812, the USS Constitution engaged in a battle with the British frigate HMS Guerriere. When the enemy’s cannonballs bounced off her thick oak sides, one sailor shouted, “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!” And thus, the nickname “Old Ironsides” was born.

Old Ironsides vs Time

But it wasn’t just her thick wooden hull that was tough. Old Ironsides has faced her fair share of time warp delays too.

First time warp delay: By 1830, the USS Constitution had already been in active service for over 30 years. So to celebrate her successes, naval officers decided to take her on a tour around the East Coast. They hoped to show the public what a proud and sturdy ship she was.

And that’s where the time warp happened. Old Ironsides sailed into port towns that had recently built up since her creation. The ship was often 50 feet taller than the dock she was supposed to tie up at. How awkward was that? It made it hard to disembark on land and often led to innovative and comical solutions.

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Second time warp delay: In the mid-1800s, the USS Constitution was scheduled to be scrapped. But a group of enthusiastic preservationists, known as the “Old Ironsides Guardians,” managed to raise enough money to save the ship from her death sentence.

However, the ship still needed repairs. By 1882, Old Ironsides was taken out of commission and towed to the Portsmouth Naval Yard in Kittery, Maine, for repairs. And that’s when the second time warp delay happened.

Repairing the old ship took longer than expected due to the lack of oak trees that met the specifications for her repairs. They had to wait for the proper lumber to be sourced from the forests of Pennsylvania, which caused the repairs to take longer.

But, finally, in 1907, Old Ironsides was restored enough to begin touring ports again. This time, the often-awkward docking was funded because people could see the historical significance of the ship.

Third time warp delay: Old Ironsides was sailing across the Atlantic back to the United States in the winter of 1931-1932. The ship got caught in a storm with high winds and rough seas, and after a series of mishaps, it was feared she would capsize. Luckily, the storm calmed down and the crew and the ship made it safely home.

But this wasn’t the end of the story. Old Ironsides again found herself in danger when WWII broke out. Frank Knox, the Secretary of the Navy at the time, ordered that the ship be moved from her home at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston to safety.

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This wasn’t easy due to the time warp delays that Old Ironsides had already faced. She was still a tall ship that was hard to maneuver into dock. And since she was already over 130 years old, there was a lot of concern about whether she would make the trip unscathed. So Old Ironsides was placed on a barge and towed away from danger by a tugboat.

Old Ironsides Today

Old Ironsides has had a long history of delays, but she’s still going strong. Today, she’s the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Her home has been Indiana Pier in Charlestown, Massachusetts, since 1934.

She still goes on sail tours in port towns around the United States. People come to see her thick oak sides, which have been repaired and replaced many times over the years, the still-operational cannons, and the daily 15 minute musket and cannonfire show when tours are running.


Old Ironsides is more than just a ship. She’s a symbol of America’s history and strength. Her time warp delays have only added to her charm and legend. If you ever get the chance, be sure to catch a glimpse of Old Ironsides in person, and remember the stories of her shipping shenanigans as you stare in awe at the thick wooden hull that’s truly worth its weight in gold.

Table: Specifications of USS Constitution

Specifications Details
Commissioned October 21, 1797
Cost $302,718.88
Length 204 ft except for the bowsprit
Beam 43 ft 6 in
Draught 21 ft
Armament 30 x 24-pounder long guns
20 x 32-pounder carronades
2 x 24-pounder bow chasers
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List 1: ‘Old Ironside’ fans

  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Julia Ward Howe
  • James Fenimore Cooper

List 2: Old Ironsides’ shenanigans

  1. Embarrassing landings in port towns she couldn’t fit in
  2. Delayed restorations due to problems sourcing oak trees
  3. Fear of capsizing on a journey across the Atlantic in 1931-1932
  4. Concerns about whether she would make a trip safely on a barge towed by a tugboat