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.
Last 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.
Many hands were instrumental in bringing the LYNX to Fort Myers Beach. Pictured (l to r) are Nervous Nellies Manager Steve DeAngelis, Beach Chamber President Bud Nocera, Town Manager Terry Stewart, Beach Chamber Chairman-elect Norma Jean Pevey, Nervous Nellies Owner Rob DeGennero, LYNX Captain John Beebe-Center, Lynx Educational Foundation Executive Director Jeffery Woods and Vice Mayor Alan Mandel.
"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.
The reproduction of the LYNX
In 1997, Woodson K. Woods embarked on a journey to build a privateer inspired by the original historic tall ship from the War of 1812 - The Privateer Lynx. His goal was to create a living history museum to educate children and adults alike about American history through active sail training aboard a real wooden sailing ship.
What went into LYNX goes far beyond history, ambition, inspiration, determination and commitment.
The meticulous attention to detail and shape in the design of LYNX are shown in the line drawings and hull construction plans by noted naval designer Melbourne Smith. Inspired by the lines taken off the original LYNX in Deptford, England in 1820, these plans highlight the process by which the vessel was transformed from its 1812 incarnation to its 2001 interpretation.
On July 28, 2001 in Rockport, Maine, Woods' vision was realized. Past and present converged as LYNX was launched in a gala event ordaining a magnificent future on the high seas. It was the largest ship-building project ever undertaken by Rockport Marine in Rockport, Maine - and was the first square-rigged vessel built in the area since 1885.
Planked with Angelique, a dense hardwood from Surinam, LYNX has been far more physically demanding than previous projects. "It was a labor of love -- with an emphasis on the hard labor," said boat builder Taylor Allen.
History of the LYNX, privateers and War of 1812
LYNX is an interpretation of an actual privateer named LYNX built by Thomas Kemp in 1812 in Fell's Point, Maryland. She was among the first ships to defend American freedom by evading the British naval fleet then blockading American ports and serving in the important privateering efforts. Although captured early in the war, the original LYNX design was recognized as superior. With her rakish profile and superior sailing abilities, she served as an inspiration to those ships that would follow. Naval Architects continue to study her power and grace. She is fitted with period ordnance and flies pennants and flags from the 1812 era. With a noble mission, Lynx acts as a dynamic educational platform and provides a unique opportunity for students to interact with their American History lessons and renders a hands-on experience. Students and adults recognize the War of 1812 as a significant element of American heritage and as a turning point in the development of our national identity.
At the outbreak of the War of 1812, the American Navy consisted of only 17 ships -eight frigates, two brigs, and seven assorted smaller vessels including a few schooners which saw service in the Barbary Wars. When a nation went to war, owners of private vessels were granted special permissions, called "letters of marque," to prey upon the enemy's shipping; thus, "privateers." While rarely engaging enemy warships, their impact was felt by English merchants who insisted on warship escorts for their vessels. To perform this duty, warships were drawn away from engaging the scant American Navy and blockading our coast, and thus did the privateers, motivated by profit, assist in our national defense. Among the Baltimore privateers was the sharp-built tops' schooner, LYNX.
Privateers were so effective at running the British blockade and harassing the British merchant fleet that the shipyards, which built them, became primary targets for British revenge. The most notorious of these were at Fell's Point.
But in order to get to them, the British force had to sail beyond Ft. McHenry, which protected the entrance to Baltimore's inner harbor and Fell's Point. For 25 hours on Sept 13 and 14, 1814, the British bombarded the fort with more than 1,500 iron shot and mortar shells, but were unable to achieve their goal. It was here, on the morning of Sept. 14, that Francis Scott Key, a lawyer from Georgetown, DC, was moved to write the "Star Spangled Banner" which, 131 years later, became our National Anthem.
Although captured early in the war, the original LYNX with her rakish profile and superior sailing abilities, served as an inspiration to those ships that would follow.
Awards and honors
The LYNX operates under the auspices of the Lynx Educational Foundation a 501(c)(3) non-profit, organization, dedicated to hands-on educational programs that teach early American history. The Maritime challenges during the War of 1812 are taught aboard the American Privateer Lynx utilizing a comprehensive, interactive program designed to enrich personal achievement through teamwork and the discipline of sail training.
The Privateer Lynx is the recipient of the 2012 Bronze Prestige Film Award, an award of merit for viewer impact; the 2011 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Maritime Education; the 2010 Star Spangled Banner Award by The Pease Greeters; and the 2008 Sail Training Program of the Year Award by The American Sail Training Association.
The Privateer Lynx was hired to train the cast and crew of the hit movie "Pirates of the Caribbean."