A collection of blogs and musings from the people that work at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum - Florida's Finest Lightstation.

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The Apple Jack and the Caravel (and a Clarification)

Posted by: Chuck Meide in In the News, LAMP Boatworks, LAMPosts

applejack.jpg

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.

From Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, to Pete Ellis, Editor, St. Augustine Record, 20 February 2012:

Just for the record; we at the Lighthouse/LAMP, collectively the First Light Maritime Society, have NOT accepted a shrimp boat trawler. We are also not involved in turning one into a caravel.

We are involved in supporting the Saint Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation and their Chalupa building project at the Fountain of Youth. Chalupas were the work boats of Saint Augustine and we support this authentic project and our work is an active part of it. We are also here to help others with advice or comments based on our historical research by our maritime archaeologists.

We have given our professional opinion that the shrimper, Apple Jack is a wonderful historic vessel, one that is indicative of a internationally significant shrimping and boat building history that sprang up in Fernandina and St. Augustine in the 1930,40’s and 50’s if not before. The legacy of the multicultural shrimping and boatbuilding industry forms the normative (every day) culture of our community. The work of these families helped sustain us during tough times. And what they did changed the food ways of the world, and the economy of Florida.

We do in fact revere this history at the Lighthouse, and we want to save the history of local shrimpers and boat builders; but we just don’t have the resources to care for her (the Apple Jack), store her, etc. We have contemplated the idea of taking the Wheel House, but we haven’t said a final OK to that either, or made a recommendation to our Board of Trustees about it. We have an internal dialog going as to whether taking just the wheel house would support the boat’s eventual restoration, or hurt it. Some of us are arguing each side.

We ask ourselves. If we took it, then where would it go? How would we preserve her and conserve her in the open? How would we fund it considering the needs we have to conserve shipwreck artifacts from the time period of the American Revolution (British Period), or to take care of our historic lighthouse (Flagler Era)? Could the wheel house be educational some way for young people? We don’t have good answers for all of these questions.

In order for us to accept an object, we must recognize that we have an ethical obligation to that object forever. We have to be able to answer the related questions. We are working to try to save objects from this same heritage that we can handle daily. And, we are very excited that someone wants to save the Apple Jack rather than scuttle her. She’s important. And all of us want the very best for the Birthday commemoration.

We’ve explained to the crew of this particular project that we believe that saving the Apple Jack is a good idea; and we have said, we don’t oppose his project; but we aren’t really involved with it either. But we do wish everyone the very best.

Some of my Board members have called and asked that we clear this up.

Please let your writers know that they can call me any time before running a story about the Lighthouse or LAMP. Can you pass this on to the authors? I’m not angry or upset; people hear different things; I just want folks at the Record to know that I am here and happy to talk to them 24/7. My phone number is 904 829-0745, ext 215 and I’m on email all the time.

Thanks for the good work and for all your care for us. I hope this is both accurate and positive.

Thank you so much,
Kathy


Here is a video featuring Dan Holiday, who is spearheading the project, produced by the St. Augustine Record:

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