The Apple Jack is one of the last wooden-hulled shrimp boats to have been built here in St. Augustine, by the famous DESCO shipyard. Until recently, Apple Jack could be seen out shrimping local waters, but circumstances have lead to the end of its shrimping career. Normally this would mean her equipment would be stripped and sold off, and her hull broken up. As a representative of the thriving shrimp trawler-building industry that was so important to St. Augustine during much of the 20th century, and one of the last working St. Augustine-built boats to ply St. Augustine waters, this is a historical vessel and one that is well worth preserving.
On 30 January the St. Augustine Record reported that a local group wanted to convert the hull of the Apple Jack into a replica of a 16th century caravel to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon's landing on the Florida coast (just a little to the north of us here in St. Augustine). It has been reported that a 20th century trawler hull is virtually identical to that of a 16th century caravel; nautical archaeologists specializing in 16th century Iberian ship construction would certainly disagree, given the evolution of the caravel form and rig in the 15th and 16th centuries and the ancestry of the St. Augustine trawler which can be traced to Greek boatbuilders emigrated to Florida in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. That debate is academic, of course, and what may be true is that any effort to prevent the immediate destruction of the Apple Jack may provide a respite necessary to eventually restore her. Original equipment from the Apple Jack is already being removed and auctioned off, diluting her historical integrity, so the window of saving her is limited. Conversion of the Apple Jack into a modern interpretation of a caravel would entail some significant structural changes, further diluting her original historical integrity, but the group spearheading this effort hopes to eventually convert the hull back and fully restore the historic shrimp boat after the 500th anniversary celebration. A more recent story, in the 20 February edition of the Record, has followed up on this project, and stated that plans are for the fully restored Apple Jack to "be on display at the St. Augustine Lighthouse."
This was an inaccurate statement. It is not that we are not interested in seeing the Apple Jack fully restored and on display to the public, but this kind of commitment is a serious undertaking that requires significant resources to do properly, and we can't responsibly agree to such a commitment without ensuring we are able to follow through.
Below the fold is a statement from our Executive Director, recently sent to the St. Augustine Record, to clarify our position on the proposed restoration of the Apple Jack, and its proposed temporary conversion to a caravel.
Continue reading "The Apple Jack and the Caravel (and a Clarification)" »