Shipwrights crouched on the decks of the tall ship Lynx Wednesday morning, prying old caulking from its decks with hammer and chisel.
Elsewhere onboard, crew members busied themselves with the rigging and the lanyards and the deadeye blocks. Ship captains Alex Peacock and Casey Laaro steadied either end of the mainmast’s horizontal spar as they readied it to be hoisted away.
“We call this process, ‘Sending down the spars,’” the Lynx’s Don Peacock explained to a novice visitor. “We are employing very traditional and significant maintenance skills in this effort. It’s all from the times of the old shipwrights. All of our commands and lingo are from 1812.”
Just like the ship itself, which is a replica of the storied American privateer from the War of 1812.
But just then, the 21st century intervened in the form of a towering crane, which lifted the massive horizontal spar from the ship’s deck and placed it dockside at the Port of Brunswick. There it lay next to several other wooden spars. Next came the Lynx’s cannon, the crane’s engines grinding loudly to the strain of the 350-pound guns.
While the crew and its shipwrights are quite capable of even this sort of heavy lifting with only 19th century resources, it was hard to turn down Owens & Pridgen Inc.’s offer to use its crane in the endeavor, Donald Peacock said.
“We’re just trying to expedite everything and this really is a big help,” said Alex Peacock, the son of Donald Peacock and a seventh-generation traditional mariner.
In fact, this kind of hospitality is what prompted the decision to winter over in the Golden Isles for some timely maintenance on the Lynx. Lang Building Supply volunteered to haul the spars and the cannon back down to Brunswick Landing Marina, where the Lynx will be docked throughout the refitting, Donald Peacock said.
“Everybody’s pitching in strong to see this happen for us — OPI, the port, Lang,” Peacock said. “The Southern hospitality has just been phenomenal. And we’re spending our money here in Brunswick while doing the tall ship tear-down here.”
The Lynx and its crew have taken a liking to our balmy breezes and friendly faces since first arriving in the Golden Isles in November. It was the right time and the perfect weather for the Lynx’s first refitting since 2013.
“This seems to be a fine spot, so why go anywhere else?” Alex Peacock said. “We love the town and everyone has been so accommodating. The people here are really great, very friendly.”
A crew of traditional shipwrights were recruited from Massachusetts to oversee the refitting project. This includes caulking the entire deck, employing oakum, cotton and tar — just as their 19th century forbears would have done.
“It’s always been a good boat, well kept,” said Tony Finocchiaro, the head shipwright, of the Lynx. “But it’s time to do the decks. We’re using what they would have used. And it should be good for another 10 years, no problem.”
The Lynx is expected to be back in commission by mid-March, docked at Morningstar Marina on St. Simons Island and ready to take on new passengers for cruises in the St. Simons Sound, Don Peacock said. They will remain in the area through Memorial Day, he said. The ship is owned by the Lynx Educational Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to educating folks about the War of 1812 and early U.S. maritime history. The Lynx has taken out for free more than 350 local youth during its stay, primarily through the Boys and Girls Club, Peacock said.
Similar youthful encounters inspired Laaro and Lynx Chief Mate Angela Wilt to aspire to climbing tall ship rigging instead of corporate ladders. Laaro was introduced to tall ship sailing through a high school program on Lake Michigan near his native Milwaukee, Wis. He and Donald Peacock serve as relief captains to Alex Peacock onboard the Lynx, but Laaro also captains a tall ship out of Bermuda.
“I fell in love with sailing in high school, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said. “Now I’m a captain. I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can.”
Wilt began volunteering her time on tall ships as a teenager in Maryland and continued through college at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. At 24, she does not plan to find landlubber’s work anytime soon.
“I just kept volunteering and fell in love with working on the water,” Wilt said. “I hopped around from ship to ship until I found the Lynx. I’ve been here for four years, it’s a great ship.”
Rest assured, the crew is enjoying the Golden Isles’s version of winter, not to mention being within walking distance of downtown Brunswick, Laaro said.
“Brunswick is super nice, love the people,” he said. “Downtown is nice — Tipsy’s, Reid’s Apothacary — it’s great.”
For more information about the Lynx, visit www.tallshiplynx.org.