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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To Build a Boat...

Posted by: Karson Winslow, California in First Coast Maritime Archaeological Project, LAMP Boatworks, LAMPosts

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UPDATE: Read more about LAMP's boatbuilding program in this Florida Times-Union article online.

Posted by Brendan Burke

Visitors to the lighthouse may now notice an abundance of hammering, sawdust, and wood shavings just over the fence from the lighthouse tower. This is the newly established LAMP Boatworks. LAMP has been fortunate enough to attract the skills of several volunteers who have prior boatbuilding experience and other who are interested and willing to learn about wooden boat building. With the combined resources of LAMP and these valuable people dedicating their time and labor, we are pleased to announce the boatbuilding program is well under way!

Our first project was to build a boatbuilding platform and workbench:

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Photo showing the boatbuilding crew constructing the building platform.


Allowing the volunteers to work out of the sun and rain, this covered platform was erected just outside of the Keeper's yard near our historic rudder exhibit. With the infrastructure in place, wood soon began arriving for the laying of our first vessel. This inaugural project focuses around a type of small boat called the 'Bevin's Skiff'.

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Closeup of Bevin's Skiff plans.


At 11' 8" long and built from pine and okoume plywood, this boat type represents a common rowboat design used in shallow water areas as a yacht tender, workboat, or recreational craft. Maury Keiser, one of our most accomplished and skilled craftsmen, brought this boat design to LAMP as an example of a simple and plain craft to construct for first-time boatbuilders. The first nail was driven last week on the 26th of July. Now, the Bevin’s Skiff has taken shape and actually looks like a real boat! Soon the job of sealing and final sanding will take place and then we will paint the boat for its final dressing.


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Maury Keiser, lead boatbuilder, working with a hand plane.

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Sam Turner, LAMP Director of Archaeology, works on final fitting.


One of our other ongoing projects is to finish a boat begun by volunteer Maury Keiser. This lapstrake built craft is called a ‘Yankee Tender’ and is representative of yacht tenders from the early 20th century. The hull, 12' 4" long, is formed from northern white cedar with white oak framing and a mahogany transom to set it off! This snappy little boat will soon be fitted with its frames (inaccurately called ‘ribs’ sometimes) which will give it a solid backbone on which to ride. How does a 'Yankee Tender' relate to this southern town? Immediately after the Civil War lighthouse keepers were predominately from northeastern states. It is quite likely that these keepers brought northern boatbuilding techniques to St. Augustine, especially in the form of common tenders. Lighthouse documents relate that some of these Keepers had to build their own boats when denied funds to buy vessels for the Light Station.

Come visit the boatbuilding program here at the Lighthouse and see wooden craft taking shape. The schedule for boatbuilding is Tuesday-Thursday every week. While the current operation is focusing on more ‘classic’ crafts from the late-19th and early 20th century, our attention will soon focus on earlier boat types from around this region. Stay tuned to see our next project, a ‘Charleston Bateau’, take shape as we delve back into our maritime past and bring it to life!

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Dave Huber, LAMP vounteer, driving ring nails to attach the bottom of the hull to the chines.

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In the flurry of activity a boat begins to take shape!

For anyone interested in helping out with our Boatworks program, please contact Debe Thompson, Lighthouse Volunteer Coordinator at dthompson@staugustinelighthouse.com

Comments (1)

Hi there, I'm trying to learn more about boat building, the courses seem pretty expensive, do you know of any clubs in the Massachusetts area? Thanks...John.

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