Tourism on Estero Island should be boosted by an "historical" decision, according to an announcement at the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Thursday.
Don Peacock, chairman of the Lynx Educational Foundation, announced "America's Privateer" LYNX, a replica of a war ship from the War of 1812, will make its winter port on Fort Myers Beach for the unforeseeable future.
The 80-foot long, 122-foot tall square topsail clipper schooner made its first-ever grand entry into Gulf waters on Jan. 3, and docked at the pier at Nervous Nellie's Waterfront Eatery at Snug Harbor Marina. The original idea was to remain at the local port of call until the third week in January then travel to certain points on the Eastern seaboard. Plans changed with overwhelming hospitality.
Except for a short port of call in St. Petersburg, LYNX will be docked at Nervous Nellies until the third week of March.
"The welcoming has been truthful, sincere and honest from everybody," Peacock said. "You have facilities and very quick access to the Gulf. We feel that we are in safe hands and can bring something to the community.
"I will not lie. We had other people interested in having us, but we feel so secure of what we have seen already and after meeting your business leaders and sharing the thoughts that came across our deck. We would be foolish to think that we could recreate this somewhere else, so why run from the momentum."
LYNX functions as a mobile museum for tours and is available for day sailing trips and charters to relive American history and educate students of all ages. The top of the wooden sailing ship can be seen when driving over Matanzas Bridge. It is too tall to go underneath.
Crew members and officials from the Lynx educational board plan on staying until the third week in March this year then depart due to scheduled maintenance in Mystic Seaport, Conn. in mid-April. They plan to return for seasonal months until 2015 or beyond and have been very pleased with their stay thus far.
"It's like coming into a safe harbor," said Capt. John Beebe-Center. "Rob (DeGenerro) and Steve (DeAngelis) have really looked after us very well over at Nervous Nellies. It is a real treat to be here. We are filling the boat every day and taking people sailing in lovely weather."
"The support system here has been unbelievable," said Lynx Educational Foundation Executive Director Jeff Woods. "This community is what we were looking for."
The Lynx Educational Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan, educational organization, dedicated to hands-on educational programs that teach the history of America's struggle to preserve its independence. The maritime challenges during the War of 1812 are taught aboard the American Privateer Schooner Lynx utilizing a comprehensive, interactive program designed to enrich personal achievement through teamwork and the discipline of sail training.
LYNX, which came down the Eastern seaboard with extended stays in Charleston, S.C. and Fort Lauderdale, will still depart for its next port of call in St. Petersburg on Jan. 24, but only for a short visit before returning on Friday, Feb. 1.
"We will come back and make a re-grand entry, so to speak, and will be back open for business on Saturday," said Peacock.
The LYNX crew plans on flying a Town of Fort Myers Beach flag throughout the year.
"We look forward to being part of your representation going forward. We are really proud and honored to be part of what you have to offer here," said Peacock.
Daily dockside tours are available for $6 per person (ages 12 and under are free) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or sailing excursions can be enjoyed for $65 for adults or $35 for ages 12 and under from 3 to 5 p.m. The vessel is also available for charters.
This year marks the 201st anniversary of the War of 1812 and the Star-Spangled Banner signing.
"The War of 1812 really solidified our position as a nation of power. We didn't win the war, but we fought a repectable war. Some people call it the Second War of Independence," said Beebe-Center. "We're an educational vessel. We like to explain how private war ships were used in the defense of the country during the War of 1812."
The replica LYNX was designed by noted marine architect Melbourne Smith of Annapolis, Md. and built by Rockport Marine in Rockport, Maine. The original LYNX was built at Fell's Point, Md. and commissioned during the opening days of the war, making her among the first ships to defend American freedom.