'Old Ironsides' sets sail at age 214, shows age isn't everything

'Old Ironsides' sets sail at age 214, shows age isn't everything
Painting depicting the boats of USS Constitution towing her in a calm, while she was being pursued by a squadron of British warships on July 18, 1812.

I was heartened recently by – of all things – a ship.

Not just any ship, though. A really, really old ship – The USS Constitution, also known as "Old Ironsides," which was originally launched on Oct. 21, 1797.

You would think a ship built that long ago would have gone to its watery graveyard long ago. Or at least be permanently stored in a museum somewhere. My cars typically last just a few years before pushing their own self-destruct button in a desperate attempt to get away from the sports radio stations I force them to listen to with me. I suppose a vehicle can only takes so much of "The Bears suck! No, the Bears are great! The Cubs suck! No, the White Sox suck! When are the Bulls going to get rid of Boozer?!?"

"Old Ironsides," however, still is chugging along, happily bereft of sports radio talk. That makes it 214 years old – which while is like 12 in vampire years – is pretty darn old in both human and ship years.

According to a Newsday article on its most recent venture, which was just its second outing in the past 131 years:

For 17 minutes on Sunday, [Aug. 19], the ship cruised west across Boston Harbor, reaching a maximum speed of 3.1 knots. It was its first sail under its own power since turning 200 in 1997.

The short trip — a distance of 1,100 yards — was to commemorate the Constitution's victory over a British warship of a similar size in a fierce battle during the War of 1812. The victory earned the ship its nickname, "Old Ironsides."

I don't know about you, but I'm impressed. It just goes to show that we're never too old to accomplish something.

Maybe that something won't be swimming 1,100 yards at age 214, though I wouldn't put it past Diana Nyad, who – at age 62 – recently attempted to swim from Cuba to the U.S. (She ultimately failed – mostly because that's a ridiculously long way to swim, 103 miles, in a body of water filled with jellyfish and sharks – but she made it pretty far, 55 miles, before the ocean claimed its hard-fought victory.)

Maybe that something won't be swimming 1,100 yards at age 107 even.

But there are many more somethings within reach of all of us, no matter our age. I'm still relatively young at 31, but it's something I plan on keeping in mind as the years go be.

And if "Old Ironsides" can do it, if Diana Nyad can do it, then so can the rest of us.

• Joe Grace is a writer and  journalist who lives in Chicago with his wife. Write to him at joewriter81@gmail.com.

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