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A Very Maritime Memorial Day

HMS Bounty and Privateer Lynx at Portsmouth, NH

What the heck is it about a yard arm that sets the public to salivating so? Over the holiday weekend we had a Tall Ship invasion just around the corner here from where I live in the South End of Portsmouth, NH, and, per usual, hordes of people turned out to wait in line forever just to walk the deck of a traditional square-rigger for a few minutes. We had two guests, actually, who both parked on the local fishing dock across from Prescott Park. The one on the left is HMS Bounty, a replica of the ship that Capt. William Bligh led to infamy back in the 18th century; the other is Lynx, an "interpretation" of an American privateer from the War of 1812. (And, yes, Lynx does carry square sails, on her foremast, but you can't see the yard arms here as they are end-on to the camera.)

I'd never met Bounty before. She was built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, back in the early 1960s for the express purpose of appearing as herself in MGM's 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty (starring Charles Laughton, as Bligh, and Marlon Brando as his mutinous mate, Fletcher Christian). She has appeared in many other films since then, and also makes all the usual rounds as a Tall Ship. She certainly was the popular favorite here in Portsmouth, if only because she has so many more yard arms (and is bigger) than Lynx. While roaming around below I met one young man who was very afraid of finding pirates onboard. He didn't look particularly relieved when I assured him this particular ship carried only botanists. On deck a little later I met some other boys who were intent on firing grape shot into the crowd on shore.

Boys playing on the deck of HMS Bounty

Lynx, meanwhile, is an old friend. I first met her shortly before she was launched in Rockport, Maine (she was built by Rockport Marine), back in 2001. I had a chance then to talk to the man who commissioned her creation, Woody Woodson, and learned he was looking forward to sailing Lynx in mock combat with other Tall Ships. He's had several chances to do this since then, and you can get some idea of what it's like by watching this video here.

While the big boys basked in the limelight, Portsmouth's own Short Ship, a gundalow replica named Edward H. Adams, lurked across the way trying to feed off their glamour. Gundalows were shoal-draft lateen-rigged sailing barges that plied the Piscataqua River estuary back in the day carrying cargo up and down the Piscataqua and the several lesser rivers that feed into Great Bay. Their lateen spars were hoisted on very short masts, with the spar ballasted and the mast right forward, so the spar could be dipped to pass beneath the many low bridges in the area.

HMS Bounty and Lynx as seen from the gundalow

I bumped into my neighbor, Molly Bolster, who heads up the non-profit Gundalow Company that runs the old Ed Adams, and pointed out to her that her gundalow needs yard arms, too, if it really wants to compete with the likes of Bounty and Lynx. This, however, would not be historically accurate, so instead Molly is trying to build a new gundalow. She has promised I can organize some gundalow match races once the new barge gets launched, so I urge you to send her lots of money. I assure you that a gundalow race will be much more interesting than any America's Cup match.

Soon after touring the waterfront, I trundled over to Phil Cavanaugh's house (yes, that's the famous Snake-Wake Phil of Better Person fame) to help liberate yet another traditional vessel from his neighbor's backyard. Said neighbor, Peter Braseth, suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease and managed to build this boat, a very sweet looking Newfoundland trap skiff (note that sweeping sheer line!), with his daughter Kali. To get the skiff out of its birthplace, we had to break down part of Phil's fence and carry it across his yard to a trailer on the street, as you can see here.

Carrying a skiff thru Phil's yard

Loading Kali's skiff on its trailer

Kali on her new skiff

Kali plans to teach herself to sail aboard this fine craft, which she hopes to splash down in Rye for the first time sometime later this week.

BoaterMouth link: here

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