Overview / History
The Piscataqua Maritime Commission proudly hosts Sail Portsmouth each summer, bringing tall ships to the New Hampshire Seacoast. Activities include the Parade of Sail, Deck Tours, Captains' Reception, Day Sails, Exhibits, Food, Music, and Souvenirs! A fun event for pirates of all ages!
Tickets for the event are: $9 for adults (12 and up). Children under 12-years-old are free. $25 Family Plan (two adults and their children under 21). Event tickets are sold at the gate.
Boat owners are encouraged to join the thrilling Parade of Sail up the Piscataqua and escort the ships to their berths.
Witness the majesty of the Parade of Sail – good viewing spots are Four Tree Island in Portsmouth, Great Island Common and Portsmouth Yacht Club in New Castle, Ft. Foster in Kittery.
Join the Parade of Sail in your private vessel.
Come to the Welcoming Ceremony to greet our ships, their captains, crews, and open the festival.
Under the tent find maritime Exhibitors, fresh food, and souvenir merchandise for pirates big and small.
While in Portsmouth you should visit many of our historic maritime sites.
Volunteer to work the event – lots of fun and you are invited to the Volunteer Cookout on Sunday evening.
Reserve a booth for your maritime related organization in the Exhibitors' tent.
The Privateer Lynx will be offering day sails Wednesday thru Sunday. Ride aboard Lynx for the Parade of Sail Wednesday at 3:00p. Standard sails Wednesday at 6:00p, and at 10:00a, 2:00p, and 6:00p on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
This year, 292 feet of schooner will come to Portsmouth for this year’s Sail Portsmouth event! The 170-foot Mystic will lead the Parade of Sail up the Piscataqua, and will be joined by “America’s Privateer”, Lynx.
Mystic, a three-masted, gaff-rigged, square-topsail schooner, to fully describe her, takes a crew of 14 to manage her 13 sails, but with her 34-foot beam there’s plenty of room aboard. She has 17 cabins and her main salon seats 38 for dining. Her main mast is 110 feet tall.
For the first time, a featured vessel in Sail Portsmouth’s public tours will also be the ship used for the Piscataqua Maritime Commission’s Sea Challenge! After closing for public tours Sunday, August 3, Mystic will board 30 Seacoast youth for a week of sail training on the ocean. (See our Summer 2014 newsletter for more.)
This year, we are happy to announce that the venue for Sail Portsmouth 2014 will be the Fish Pier, Peirce Island, Portsmouth, a location in downtown Portsmouth, contiguous to its historic center, and a stone’s throw from Strawbery Bank!
Mystic’s public tours will also include a special bonus. Typically, ships do not allow tours inside the ship, as that’s where the crew lives. But Mystic will have two of her deck houses, including the main salon with its teak trim, and its forward navigation house, open to the public.
A unique feature of Mystic is her ability to cruise in much shallower waters than just about any other sailing ship her size. In order to sail into the wind, sailboats must have a deep, fixed keel, to keep them from slipping sideways with the wind. But, unusually for a 171-foot vessel, Mystic has a retractable centerboard, that gives her a 19-foot depth at sea, but which can be power winched up to only 10 feet, for docking at Peirce Island.
The beautiful 122-foot, two-masted topsail schooner Lynx returns to Portsmouth after several years. She is a replica of an early privateer from the War of 1812. At the start of that war, America had only a 17-ship Navy, so private vessels were issued “letters of marque” authorizing them to attack enemy shipping as “privateers”. With her sharply raked masts, and a low-slung design, she was built for speed, so as to avoid the British ships blockading our ports, but her 6-pound cannons made her more than a match for the British merchant shipping on which she preyed.
Lynx considers Portsmouth her homeport, and you will see our fair city’s name painted on her stern.
Lynx will be arriving in Portsmouth Wednesday afternoon, July 30, prior to the beginning of Sail Portsmouth. She will initially be docked in New Castle, and will be offering two-hour ocean sails to the public Wednesday through Friday (See page 3 article).
To find out more about the Lynx, consider purchasing ““America’s Privateer””, Lynx and The War of 1812, by J. Dennis Robinson. Quote: “The War of 1812 privateer Lynx comes to life brilliantly in “America’s Privateer”, a book which opens with a colorful and balanced picture of the war for which the original Lynx was built two hundred years ago.” The book is on sale at the Discover Portsmouth Center.
Each year we have a party under the tent, by the water, to celebrate Sail Portsmouth. Captains and Crews join our guests for cocktails, a catered buffet, and music.
Information for Tall Ship Captains
The Piscataqua Maritime Commission hosts Sail Portsmouth, tall ship visits to historic Portsmouth, NH, every year, between May and September. Past visitors include Eagle, Bounty, Gazela, Prince William, and Kalmar Nyckel. Proceeds from our events fund sail training scholarships for seacoast youth and other education projects.
Why do previous captains call Portsmouth “one of the best port calls ever”?
For over two decades, our members and volunteers – about 150 at each event - have organized a fabulous time for your crew and captain, as well as our many ship visitors. We focus on a few ships and make them the heroes for our 3-day weekend.
Why we ask you to put us on your calendar for a port call!
Portsmouth sits on the shortest coastline in the United States – only 17 miles. That coastline is home to a long, seafaring history. Settled in 1623, Portsmouth is the nation’s third oldest port. As one of the largest shipbuilding ports in the country, Portsmouth sent hundreds of clipper ships down the ways to the sea. John Paul Jones’ Ranger and America, and Kearsarge were built here; and Portsmouth is home to the country’s first naval shipyard, building ships for the service since 1800.
What does Portsmouth offer?
- Strong regional interest in the area’s rich maritime history brings hundreds of thousands of visitors from the four-state area have toured the tall ships visiting Portsmouth.
- Ships dock in downtown historic Portsmouth within sight and an easy walk for visitors.
- Enthusiastic support from the NH Division of Ports and Harbors at state owned wharves.
- Plenty of parking for visitors.
- A market of 3 million people within one hour.
- Full newspaper, radio, and television coverage of visit.
Captains love our facilities!
We provide harbor pilots, experienced tug and line handlers, and wharfage fees.
Ships moor at permanent docks with full facilities, including bumpers and boarding ramps, power, water, and trash disposal. Fuel and pump outs are available.
Convenient transportation – Portsmouth is adjacent to interstate highways, bus and train stations, and 3 major airports within an hour.
…and crews especially love the port!
- Scenic, historic Portsmouth is a major tourist draw. Downtown attractions include:
- Strawbery Banke (yes, one “r”!) is an outdoor museum featuring buildings and exhibits covering 300 years.
- A dozen noteworthy beaches along our beautiful seacoast.
- Several historic homes, like the John Paul Jones.
- Museums, including the U.S.S. Albacore Submarine Park across the street from the dock.
- The Music Hall, an historic building housing the region’s leading concert venue.
- A water park, cruises to Isle of Shoals, whale watching, kayaking, and more!
- Ships moor within easy walking to restaurants, historical sites, sightseeing, shops, etc.
- 150 restaurants and pubs, many with live entertainment, and 11 coffee shops.
- Volunteers handle safety and traffic control, assist in tours and standing night watch, if desired.
- Everyone enjoys the Captain and Crew Reception, with food, drinks, and music.
- We always show our appreciation at the Crew and Volunteers informal barbecue.
And Portsmouth loves our tall ship visitors right back!
For more information, please contact us.
Become a Volunteer
We need more volunteers for Sail Portsmouth 2015. Please contact us today and become a volunteer!
Volunteers take on many tasks: assist guests boarding ships, sell beverages and merchandise, work dock security, assist with crowd management and parking, drive the “shuttle” (golf cart!), and whatever else pops up - and something always does! A different brightly colored T-shirt is given to volunteers every year - so we can find you! (You get to keep the shirt, of course.) There's also a volunteer BBQ after everything is done on Sunday. It's always a great way to connect with other people who love our maritime history, tall ships, and free food. 🙂
The success of Sail Portsmouth always happens with the teamwork of our volunteers. Contact us today and get involved!
All Volunteers on Deck!
Become an Exhibitor
The Exhibitor tent at Sail Portsmouth is a well-received draw. Do you represent a non-profit organization with a maritime related mission? As an Exhibitor, you have a waterside venue to spread the word about your mission.
In the past, our 20-plus Exhibitors included Gundalow Company, The Knot Tyers Guild, a UK based group who captivates the crowd with sea-knot wizardry, Portsmouth's historic Moffatt-Ladd House connection, the NH Commercial Fisherman's Association, and the Blue Ocean Society.
In July 2012, we welcomed the UNH Marine Docents who entertained and educated us with presentations on the War of 1812 and the role played by the Pride of Baltimore. We also welcomed the Seacoast Science Center, Star Island Corporation, and the Great Bay Discovery Center.
Sail Portsmouth is a festive event on picturesque Peirce Island - an opportunity not to be missed. For information about reserving a booth for Sail Portsmouth 2014 for your non-profit organization, contact us.