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Replicas of 19th century ships to sail off Seacoast

This week’s 2014 Sail Portsmouth event will showcase a bit of nautical history on the Seacoast, with public tours and sails of replica 19th-century ships and a Friday boat parade featuring numerous local boats, cannon salutes and ceremonies at the Commercial Fish Pier on Peirce Island.

The Piscataqua Maritime Commission is hosting the annual “tall ships” event, which will be centered in Portsmouth’s historic south end. Public sails on the Lynx, a replica War of 1812 clipper vessel, will be offered in the afternoon and evening on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, departing from Newcastle and sailing for about two hours on the open ocean near the Isle of Shoals.

People will be able to go below decks on the Mystic, a three-masted, 170-foot schooner, during tours offered on Saturday and Sunday. The Mystic, the Lynx, the Gundalow Piscataqua and many local boats will join Friday’s Parade of Sail, which also will feature a fly-over by antique aircraft based in Hampton.

Strafford resident Donald Coker, chairman of the maritime commission, said the event is a celebration of local history.

“Our mission is to maintain and educate the public on the maritime heritage of the region,” Coker said Monday. “Portsmouth at one time was a huge boat-building center.”

Coker said Portsmouth’s proximity to tall, straight pine trees in northern New England — and the establishment of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1800 — fueled the seaport’s ship-building era from the early 1700s to the late 1800s.

“It was one of the few places that you could really get strong, straight, high-quality masts for ships,” Coker said. “It’s said that over 200 clipper ships were built here in Portsmouth.”

The Lynx is a replica of a War of 1812 Baltimore clipper. The original vessel was intended to harass British merchant ships off the coast and draw British warships away from America’s fledgling fleet.

Coker said by necessity, the Lynx was “built for speed.”

“It’s low in the water; it has raked-back masts. It actually looks like a sports car,” he said.

This week’s daytime sails cost $55 per person, or $75 per person for Friday’s Parade of Sail. Children 12 and younger can join for $30. Information and ticket services can be accessed online at

Coker said the vessels will sail in rain, but not in thunder and lightning.

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