USS Constitution takes final trip in Boston Harbor

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USS Constitution takes final trip in Boston Harbor
BOSTON - OCTOBER 9: British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on board the USS Constitution in the Charlestown neighborhood on October 9, 2014. (Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - OCTOBER 9: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, third from right, and others disembarked after touring the USS Constitution in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston on October 9, 2014. (Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - AUGUST 29: The U.S.S. Constitution under sail on its way from Castle Island. The ship won't be under sail again until 2018. (Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - AUGUST 29: The U.S.S. Constitution under sail on its way to Castle Island. The ship wont be under sail again until 2018. (Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - AUGUST 29: The U.S.S. Constitution under sail on its way to Castle Island. The ship won't be under sail again until 2018. (Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - AUGUST 22: In one of it's final turnarounds, the USS Constitution fires it's guns to salute the crowds at Castle Island. The last two turnarounds are August 29, 2014 and October 19, 2014, before the ship spends three years undergoing repairs at a dry dock. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 02: The frigate, the USS Constitution, 1797, known as Old Ironsides, anchored in the old shipyard at Charlestown in Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
BOSTON - JULY 29: A maintenance crew member working on the sails of the USS Constitution looks over U.S. Navy personnel high up on the mast. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - JULY 15: The whaling ship Charles Morgan sails into Boston Harbor, where it will dock next to the USS Constitution. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - JULY 15: The whaling ship Charles Morgan sailed into Boston Harbor where it docked next to the U.S.S Constitution. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - JULY 15: The whaling ship Charles W. Morgan sailed into Boston Harbor, where it docked next to the USS Constitution. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Secretary of State John Kerry, center, and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, left, tour the main deck of the USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides," during a visit to the U.S. Navy's oldest commissioned ship, Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014, in Boston. Kerry and Hammond were in Boston to tour the Wind Technology Testing Center and made a stop at The Constitution afterwards. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2014, file photo, Secretary of State John Kerry walks down the gang plank of the USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides," during a visit to the U.S. Navy's oldest commissioned ship in Boston. The USS Constitution, the world's oldest commissioned warship still afloat, is set to depart from its berth at the Charlestown Navy Yard with about 500 specially-invited guests Friday, Oct. 17. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)
The U.S.S. Constitution, or "Old Ironsides," the U.S. Navy's oldest commissioned ship that is still afloat, is towed through Boston Harbor past the financial district skyline with its topsails unfurled Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 in Boston. The ship is setting its sails for the last time before the warship heads to dry dock for a three-year repair project. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, left, stand at the wheel of the USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides," during a visit to the U.S. Navy's oldest commissioned ship, Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014, in Boston. Kerry and Hammond were in Boston to tour the Wind Technology Testing Center and made a stop at The Constitution afterwards. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
The USS Constitution fires a 21-gun salute off Castle Island on its annual turn around on Boston Harbor in Boston, Friday, July 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Fireboats escort the USS Constitution on its annual Fourth of July turn-around on Boston Harbor in Boston, Friday, July 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
The USS Constitution heads back to dock after giving a 21-gun salute off Castle Island on its annual Fourth of July turn-around on Boston Harbor in Boston, Friday, July 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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BOSTON (AP) -- Old Ironsides is taking one last spin in Boston Harbor before it heads to dry dock for a three-year restoration project.

The USS Constitution, the world's oldest commissioned warship still afloat, is set to depart from its berth at the Charlestown Navy Yard with about 500 specially-invited guests Friday morning.

The ship will give a 21-gun salute off Fort Independence on Castle Island, one of the oldest fortified sites in the country, as well as a 17-gun salute at the Coast Guard's Boston base.

After Friday's trip, the ship will undergo dry-dock preparations, including removal of its upper masts and offloading of the ship's long guns. The three-mast frigate still will be open for public tours Thursday through Sunday, starting Oct. 20. It officially enters dry dock in March 2015.

During the restoration, workers are expected to re-copper the ship's hull, replace worn riggings, change out old planks on the gun and berth decks and make general repairs to the stern, bow and captain's cabin. The ship is expected to be back in the water by 2017. By spring or summer 2018 it should return to its familiar spot on Pier 1 at the Navy Yard.

Built in Boston and launched in October 1797, the USS Constitution was commissioned by the U.S. Navy following the Revolutionary War in order to protect American merchant ships off the northern coast of Africa.

It earned the nickname "Old Ironsides" after winning numerous battles during the War of 1812 against Great Britain. Over the years, the iconic ship has held a variety of roles in the Navy. Today with an all active-duty Navy crew, it is a major tourist destination in Boston, with more than 500,000 visitors a year.

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