The Privateer Lynx


At Jack London Square in Oakland: The Lynx, an “interpretation” of an 1812 Baltimore clipper-type schooner built in Maryland near the outset of the War of 1812. We saw it while on the Oakland ferry and went over to its berth to check it out. It was commissioned by a Baltimore merchant syndicate and was intended to be a raider of British shipping (remember “letters of marque and reprisal“?). The Lynx was captured in April 1813, despite having fled up the Rappahannock River from Chesapeake Bay to escape larger British warships. The British were so bent on taking the Lynx they sent boats to follow it upriver where they did indeed capture it. The Brits took the boat to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and pressed it into service for the duration of the war. They were so impressed with the boats speed and maneuverability that they brought it to England after the war and studied and recorded every detail of its design and construction so that it could be reproduced (a process that today we call “reverse engineering”).

The current Lynx was built in Maine and completed in 2001 and is used by a private foundation as a sort of floating classroom. It’s staffed by professional sailors who teach schoolkids the basics of how sailing gear works, how the ship’s guns work, and what role the boat and similar ones played in U.S. history. I went out on the Lynx on Sunday afternoon for a cruise out past Alcatraz. Great trip, and one that I’m doing a radio story on. Oh, the ship’s motto: “Be excellent to each other and to your ship.”

(The mini-narrative above is from Craig Chipman, captain of the Lynx, and Richard Conlan, a crew member).

More here: Lynx, America’s Privateer.

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