( woops! this is an old story and it's about as true as romantic yarns about relationships between sailors and mermaids. but as the saying goes: the difference between a fable and sea story is simple: one begins"Once upon a time" the other leads with: "No Shit,"--jmf!
The U. S. S. Constitution (Old Ironsides), as a combat vessel, carried 48,600 gallons of fresh water for her crew of 475 officers and men. This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea. She carried no evaporators (i.e. fresh water distillers).
However, let it be noted that according to her ship's log, "On July 27, 1798, the U.S.S. Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum.
" Her mission: "To destroy and harass English shipping."Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum.
Then she headed for the Azores, arriving there 12 November. She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine.
On 18 November, she set sail for England. In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchant ships, salvaging only the rum aboard each.
By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted. Nevertheless, although unarmed she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. Her landing party captured a whisky distillery and transferred 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch aboard by dawn. Then she headed home.
The U. S. S. Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799, with no cannon shot, no food, no powder, no rum, no wine, no whisky, and 38,600 gallons of water.
In case you’re wondering: that’s 126,230 gallons of distilled spirits and 64,300 gallons of wine.
Makes you wonder if the Constitution’s ship’s company was in the mood for strong drink when she birthed in Boston. This also serves to define the phrase “drunk as a sailor”
Thanks to fellow retired technology journalist and one time Lt. USNR Jim Brinton for this factoid. -- Jim Forbes on 09/04/2009.