The arrival of the tall ship Lynx, an annual harbinger of spring sailing season in Annapolis, has been upgraded from a festive weekend to a festival.
The Annapolis Up Rigging Festival celebrates the schooner’s May visit and adds visits from the Pride of Baltimore II, two smaller schooners and a sloop, all available for free tours, as well as music, maritime art and activities for kids. Organizers describe the festival as “an inaugural and hopefully annual” event.
Although the Up Rigging doesn’t begin until Friday, the Lynx pulled up to City Dock Tuesday afternoon and plans to begin offering tours Thursday, pending permission from the U.S. Coast Guard, Capt. Sean Canniff said.
The 122-foot schooner is the eponymous replica of an 1812 boat built to serve as a blockade runner, swiftly evading British warships while carrying goods and supplies out of Baltimore. The current Lynx was built in Rockport, Maine, in 2002, and now splits its time between Nantucket, Massachusetts, and St. Simons Island, Georgia.
“We always stop here on our way up and down. Annapolis has been a very good port for us,” Canniff said.
So good, in fact, that its current crew of 10 includes two former Anne Arundel County residents. In the fall, the Lynx contracts with the U.S. Naval Academy to give Midshipmen a 19th century sailing experience, replacing a previous partnership with the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. For $60 this weekend, civilians can also cosplay outrunning the British, including a chance to fire the ship’s cannon while out on an evening cruise. Or, landlubbers can climb aboard the ship for free while it is docked.
“Guests,” Canniff corrected, “We call them guests.” (At least one of his sailors prefers the term “landlubber.”)
Other ships welcoming guests aboard include the Pride II, the clipper built to replace Maryland’s iconic ambassador vessel that sank in 1986, killing three crew members. Tours will also be available aboard a 1958 sloop called The Easterner and Adventurer, a smaller 1984 Cherubuni schooner.
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At 2 p.m. Saturday, Mayor Gavin Buckley will be on hand to help commission the RV Marie Tharp, a newly retrofitted steel polar expedition schooner owned by the Ocean Research Project, an Annapolis-based nonprofit organization. Once a bottle of choice whiskey has been smashed against the hull, the boat will set sail to explore Arctic and Antarctic coastlines, helping to measure the effects of climate change by mapping topographical changes.
Erik Evans, director of the Downtown Annapolis Partnership, served as lead organizer for Up Rigging, which came together in a mere three weeks. In the spirit of the annual fall Sultana Down Rigging in Chestertown, Evans has sought to balance serious maritime education with family-friendly nautical fun. Kids can build their own model ships (for a fee) and set sail in Susan Campbell Park, or decorate their own pirate headgear (for free) courtesy of Tattered Hatters.
“The adults love them, too,” Evans said. “I suspect you’ll end up seeing just as many adults wearing hats as kids.”
Sea shanty singing enjoyed a surprising renaissance during the pandemic thanks to a series of viral TikTok videos. Up Rigging highlights two local enthusiasts of the genre: The Bilge Rats and the Ship’s Company Chanteymen. The U.S. Navy Band Brass Quintet and a Jimmy Buffett cover act also made the musical lineup.
“We’ll have a real variety of nautical entertainment,” Evans said.
If the three-day festival is well received, Evans hopes Up Rigging will become an annual event, although he acknowledged there’s limited dock space for visiting vessels.
“We are already working on figuring out how we can accommodate more tall ships next year,” Evans said.