The day dawned bright and beautiful. And it had been a long-awaited day. The Florida skipjack, Anastasia, which was built at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum’s
Heritage Boatworks, launched in July. She was christened with the name of the island she was built on. Her first sailing sea trial, delayed by the construction and opening of our new Maritime Archaeology & Education Center, took place the morning of February 7, 2018. Like many of St. Augustine’s historic working watercraft, the Florida skipjack’s origins are elsewhere. The vessel type originated in the nineteenth-century as a working watercraft on Long Island Sound. They were used there in the oyster business and other fisheries. The craft type was brought to Florida by Captain Watrous, possibly a local pronunciation of Waterhouse, who arrived in the Jacksonville area from Essex on the Connecticut River on Long Island Sound in about 1850.
Watrous built and introduced the type to the St. Johns River and the surrounding coastal waters, including St. Augustine, where they became a common sight on the waterfront. These craft were used in the local shad fishing industry, which typically ran from January through March. Working Florida skipjacks supplied the distant markets of New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and more distant inland cities with catches which were first transshipped to Savannah and from there they continued by rail. In the off-season, Florida’s skipjacks were also used to haul local cargoes such as oranges.
Our craft, Anastasia, is a faithful replica of one of these historic watercraft. The original skipjack, upon which ours is based, was built between 1875 and 1880 by a boat carpenter named McCabe on Dunns Creek in the vicinity of Jacksonville. The craft was documented and drawn in 1936 during the Great Depression by members of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project called the Historic American Merchant Marine Survey. Her construction plans (twenty pages of field notes with measured drawings) and photos all correspond to Survey 8-46. This information was used to build a faithful replica of the original.
Anastasia sails like a dream! She is fast and very responsive to the helm. She points very close to the wind and goes about with ease. She is a beautiful craft! A few adjustments to her rig will be made before she returns to the water next week. Look for her on the bayfront. She will be flying the Lighthouse pennant!
Contributed by Director of Heritage Boat Works Dr. Sam Turner, edited by Student Intern Jayda Barnes