Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Gun Battle on the Bay"

This announcement intrigued us.

The next line had us asking where to buy tickets. "You are invited on board to experience the thrill of combat at sea during the age of sail!"

So, there we were, boarding the sharp-built privateer Lynx preparing for a mock sea battle with the replica Revenue Cutter California. One of the crew members provided a brief introduction to the Lynx, which is based on an actual privateer named Lynx built by Thomas Kemp in 1812 in Fells Point (Baltimore), Maryland.

After the introductions of the crew, including the captain (left) and, I believe, the first mate (right), we felt we were in good hands as we prepared to head out to sea.

The task of setting the sails was quickly completed under the direction of capable crew members with the help of a few of the able-bodied recruits.

We chose to board the Lynx so that we could photograph the Californian. Built in 1984, she is a replica of the 1847 Revenue Cutter C.W. Lawrence that patrolled the coast of California enforcing federal law during the gold rush. She is the “the official tall ship of the State of California.”

Ships like the Californian, were a precursor to the Coast Guard. Built for speed and armed with guns — not “cannons” — they got their moniker for chasing down merchant ships that failed to pay proper tariffs.

We learned that points are earned during the battle based on the number of perceived hits, but, more importantly, the direction of the hit. The broadside "hits" are not as destructive (or scored as highly) as "hits" fired at the stern of the other ship.

But as we watched the majestic Californian sailing in the San Diego Bay, the "battle" seemed irrelevant.

A few bars of Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman" resounded through my mind, even though the sun and calm seas did not fit the stormy mood of the overture.

(I was not able to take photos of the Lynx under sail, but our historically-inspired adaptation of an 1812-vintage privateer of the same name was a 122-foot square topsail schooner built in 2001.)

The Californian was built at Spanish Landing in San Diego Bay. She was launched with great fanfare for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

It was a gorgeous day on the Bay, and the breeze was sufficient for sailing and for sitting on deck with one's eyes closed. Just listening--blocking out conversation and just listening.

I have only been sailing a handful of times with my friend and neighbor Bob, but the memories of the wind singing as it raced through the riggings during those few sails were fresh in my mind that afternoon on the Bay.

But there was a battle to be "fought," and the sound of the ship's guns firing broke the remembered singing.

Armed with four six-pound deck guns, the Californian fired upon our ship without doing any damage.

The crew finished the afternoon by securing the sails, and we lingered as long as possible on deck.

A sail to remember.

1 comment:

mcraywood said...

Dear Kate & Chuck,
It wouldn't surprise me if your old friend Capt. Bob had joined you on your sail on the LYNX. It would be hard for him to resist a perfectly sunny day sailing with good friends. The singing of the wind through full sails pushing a ship to battle, old trusted mates and perhaps some rum - he would be there for sure!
It sounds like you enjoyed a great sail on a worthy ship.
Warm Wishes, Mary Raywood former 1st Mate SS SULTANA