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Kegan Morris of Plaistow, 12, pulls on a sail line Wednesday afternoon aboard the Lynx, a replica of a War of 1812 privateer. (MIKE LAWRENCE/Union Leader Correspondent)

Tall ships offering history at sea in Sail Portsmouth

NEW CASTLE — Twelve-year-old Kegan Morris of Plaistow plugged his ears and turned away Wednesday as Sam Imes, chief mate on the Lynx, a replica of a War of 1812 privateer, prepared to light a fuse on a cannon pointed in the direction of a passing ship in ocean waters off New Castle.

“We’re going to catch our first prize in New Hampshire,” Newmarket resident Donald Peacock, board chairman for the Lynx Educational Foundation, joked to passengers aboard the 122-foot ship.

After playful shouts of “Fire in the hole!” by the Lynx’s crew, the fuse ignited six ounces of powder in the six-pound cannon, one of four on the square-topsail schooner. The harmless ignition created a boom, a brief flare and a billow of smoke, but little else. The well-known Thomas Laighton motor vessel, which cruises on the Piscataqua River for the Isles of Shoals Steamship Co., passed by unscathed.

The blast was one of many throwback moments for the 36 passengers who enjoyed the Wednesday afternoon cruise, part of the 2014 Sail Portsmouth event that continues through Sunday.

Linda and Steve Stewart of Wolfeboro relaxed on the deck among coiled ropes, tall rigging and bustling crew.

“It’s been a beautiful day — I’m so glad we did this,” Linda Stewart said.

For Kegan and his sister Felicia, 14, the sail was a surprise.

“This was a covert operation,” said their mother, Sharon Morris. “I told them we were going to the beach.”

The Piscataqua Maritime Commission is hosting the annual “tall ships” event, which is centered in Portsmouth’s historic south end. Public sails on the Lynx continue in the afternoon and evening tonight, departing from New Castle and sailing for about two hours on the Piscataqua and the open ocean.

Passengers will be able to go below decks on the Lynx and the Mystic, a three-masted, 170-foot schooner, during tours Saturday and Sunday on Peirce Island in Portsmouth.

The Mystic, the Lynx, the Gundalow Piscataqua and many local boats will join Friday’s headlining event, the Parade of Sail, which also will feature a flyover by antique aircraft based in Hampton.

The 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

The Lynx recently was in Maine and heads to Nantucket after this weekend’s event. Captain Erik Lohse, a Virginia native, said the ship sailed through about 8-foot swells Monday night, when it encountered the same storm that sent a tornado ripping through Revere, Mass.

“It was rolly. Very rolly,” Lohse said, with the offhand nature of a seasoned captain. “It was a real confused sea, so the boat’s doing these corkscrew motions. It was a little less than pleasant.”

Wednesday’s waters and winds were calm, though, with fog lingering around the boat for part of the sail.

The Morris family said they enjoyed the smooth ride.

“Nothing beats the wooden boats,” Sharon Morris said with a smile.