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News staff Reporter

Afierce rainstorm greeted the tall ships Lynx and Peacemaker as they arrived Thursday afternoon to start the inaugural Buffalo Maritime Festival at Canalside, but they soon got a warmer welcome.

As the sun came out, spectators arrived to admire the handsome vessels and snap photos from the dockside railing as the crews raised the sails to dry them and polished the woodwork. Buffalo’s fireboat, the Edward M. Cotter, glided past, as did the cruise boat Moondance Cat.

“See, that’s a fireboat. They’ve got two water cannons,” Jim Puskas, who lives in Allentown, pointed out to his son, Nicholas, who’s almost 3.

“We heard about it online,” his wife, Nicole said, as she pushed their other boy, 1-year-old Mason, in a stroller. “I got a Facebook post from the Erie Basin Marina.”

The Puskases said they plan to come back to tour the ships over the weekend. The boys will get in free, while admission for adults is $4 to board the Peacemaker and $6 to see the Lynx. They didn’t think the youngsters were old enough to appreciate a sailaway on the Lynx, which costs $35 for kids 12 and under and $65 for adults.

The Peacemaker, built in Brazil using traditional methods and launched in 1989, is a big ship. It displaces 400 tons and its main mast is 126 feet high. Refitted as a 19th century barquentine during the past decade, it has an interior modeled after the Cutty Sark and featuring cabins paneled in mahogany.

The Lynx, a square topsail schooner, is smaller, with a height of 94 feet and a displacement of 100 tons. Launched in 2001, it is based on a War of 1812 blockade runner that was captured by the British. Both vessels are owned and maintained by the Twelve Tribes, a religious community whose distinctively painted Peacemaker bus was parked nearby.

The Peacemaker will be open for tours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The Lynx will take visitors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Lynx sailaways will be from 4 to 6 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to noon and 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to noon Sunday.

The ships will provide the backdrop for a variety of other Maritime Festival activities, including a free screening of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” at 8:30 p.m. today and fireworks at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. There also will be children’s activities, music and a beer garden hosted by the Liberty Hound restaurant.

“I’ll be back down on Saturday,” said Jim Winter of South Buffalo, who was snapping photos of crewmen high on a mast of the Peacemaker, adjusting sails. “It’s great when they bring ships like this in. I hoped to get here when they came in, but I was a little late.”

He and others admiring the ships along the railing were unsure of one thing about them – do they have engines in addition to their sails? Andrzej Ogiba, of East Amherst, who was wearing a blue U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary uniform, had the answer.

“Of course, you have to,” he said. Otherwise, he noted, it would take forever to get into the harbor.

Ogiba, a native of Poland who served in the Polish navy, said he learned of the visit via the Coast Guard.

“We know first,” he said. “In the morning, they’ll have to be inspected [by the Coast Guard] before they go out to make sure everything is right. It’s a good thing they’re letting people go on them. This one, the big one, could go across the Atlantic.”

email: danderson@buffnews.com