History buffs are enjoying the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the Star-Spangled Banner on Fort Myers Beach by welcoming a replica of a war ship from that era.
On Thursday, the grand arrival of "America's Privateer" LYNX was announced when the 80-foot long, 122-foot tall square topsail clipper schooner fired a deck gun salute from her main battery of six-pounder carronades before docking at the pier at Nervous Nellie's Waterfront Eatery at Snug Harbor Marina.
The reproduced historic war ship will be on display as a mobile museum to relive American history and educate students of all ages until Jan. 24. From now until then, the wooden sailing ship will be available for tours and trips until it departs for its next port of call in St. Petersburg.
The LYNX is docked at Nervous Nellie’s Waterfront Eatery at Snug Harbor Marina and available for tours, excursions and charters.
"We are just so impressed by the enthusiasm to bring this ship in. You can see a great crowd of people showing up for the respect of what this vessel represents," said Lynx Educational Foundation Executive Director Jeffery Woods after the vessel docked.
Under the auspices of the Lynx Educational Foundation, LYNX operates as a sail-training vessel dedicated to teaching programs designed to enrich personal achievement through teamwork and discipline. Those interested can go on daily dockside tours for $6 per person (ages 12 and under are free) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or participate in sailing excursions for $65 for adults or $35 for ages 12 and under from 3 to 5 p.m. The vessel is also available for charters.
"It's a very interactive experience where you come aboard and go on a two-hour sail where we discuss the war and the role the Privateer had back then with demonstrations like the firing of the guns," said Woods.
Before its port of call on the Beach, the crew of America's Privateer anchored off of Key West for a couple of nights. It traveled from ports in Hawaii and California and is scheduled for a five-year mission along the nation's East Coast as well as the Gulf Coast, The Great Lakes and Canada.
Its Beach port is adjacent to Nervous Nellies Crazy Waterfront Eatery on the bayside end of Old San Carlos Boulevard. Owner Rob DeGennaro, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday, was instrumental for hosting the 23-day visit.
"This is phenomenal that they want to be part of Fort Myers Beach. It shows that we are on the map," he said.
"Come down and see how things were back in 1812. Everything is authentic on the ship."
DeGennaro hopes a return trip is part of a calling for the LYNX.
"The crew is thinking about coming back and making this their winter home," he said.
Once DeGennero and Nervous Nellies Manager Steve DeAngelis began conversations with folks from Lynx Educational Foundation, the Town of Fort Myers Beach and other notable groups joined in to help.
"We worked with all the groups such as Nervous Nellies, the Beach Chamber and Lee County Tourist Development Council to make all the people from the foundation and the crew feel welcome and comfortable," said Vice Mayor Alan Mandel. "We hope that they will continue to have Fort Myers Beach as a port of call going into the future. I think this is a tremendous opportunity for people, especially school children, to see a replica of a craft that was used by our Navy in the War of 1812. This is great for Fort Myers Beach. I hope everyone enjoys it."
The replica LYNX was designed by noted marine architect Melbourne Smith of Annapolis, Md. and built by Rockport Marine in Rockport, Maine. The original LYNX was built at Fell's Point, Md. and commissioned during the opening days of the war, making her among the first ships to defend American freedom.
"The War of 1812 really solidified our position as a nation of power. We didn't win the war, but we fought a repectable war. Some people call it the Second War of Independence," said America's Privateer captain John Beebe-Center. "We're an educational vessel. We like to explain how private war ships were used in the defense of the country during the War of 1812."
DeAngelis would like to thank Beach businesses such as Shipwreck Motel and Lighthouse Island Resort for providing accommodations for LYNX crew members. If anyone would like to help out with stays or restaurant gift cards, call him at 822-1369.
For reservations aboard America's Privateer, call 1-866-446-5969 or visit www.privateerlynx.org for online ticketing and donations.