by Max Marbut
The “Lynx,” a 122-foot square topsail schooner, is moored on the Northbank Riverwalk near the Hyatt Downtown, one of the stops on a five-year tour of the eastern U.S. and Canada.
When the War of 1812 began, the American Navy consisted of just 17 ships, so owners of private vessels were granted permission, called “letters of marque,” to prey upon British shipping interests. The vessels and their captains came to be known as “privateers.”
While they rarely engaged the enemy, their impact was felt by English merchants, who demanded that combat vessels escort their cargoes. That hindered the British fleet’s ability to engage the scant American naval force.
Small, fast and maneuverable vessels like the Lynx made a significant contribution to the war effort and also helped inspire Frances Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the British attack on Fort McHenry near Baltimore in September 1814.
An interpretation of an actual privateer built in 1812, the visiting vessel was built in Rockport, Maine, at a cost of $2.5 million. It was christened in 2001 and in October will receive the National Maritime Historical Society Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Education.
The Lynx is fitted with period ordnance, including cannons that fire a 6-pound ball, and American pennants and flags from the early 19th century.
Public tours are available 9 a.m.-4 p.m. through Sunday, $5 per adult, children under 12 free.
To learn more about the ship and its mission, visit www.privateerlynx.org.
Jim Staton has been up a ladder at the Landing this week. The operations crew had been preparing Downtown’s riverfront center of shopping and entertainment for the beginning of the concert and party season.
Live music returns to the Landing every Friday and Saturday night beginning March 4 and the Gator Country/Tire Kingdom Free Spring Concert Series kicks off March 11 with Chuck Wicks, Sunny Sweeney and Thompson Square.
On March 18, it’s LoCash Cowboys and JaneDear Girls, followed March 25 by Steel Magnolia and James Wesley.
All concerts begin at 8 p.m. and admission is free.
March is also a big holiday month at the Landing. The 2nd Annual Irishmen’s Dying of the Fountain is 10 a.m. March 16. Beginning at 4 p.m. March 17 is St. Patrick’s on the St. Johns, the Hooters annual green bikini contest and a a raffle to win a $1,000 pot of gold. The 3rd Annual St. PawTy’s Day Yappy Hour for dogs and their people is 2-5 p.m. March 20.
For the complete schedule of events, visit www.jacksonvillelanding.com.