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
We rung in the Christmas season with RECORD crowds last night at our annual holiday open house, Luminary Night. Over a thousand luminaries covered the grounds and surrounding neighborhood as we welcomed our community in for a night of holiday cheer.
See some of the highlights from the evening below and be sure to mark your calendars for next year, Wednesday Dec. 6th, our 2017 Luminary Night!
The building of an authentic replica of a traditional fishing craft called a Florida skipjack was begun with a grant award from the Community Foundation from Northeast Florida. The Crisp-Ellert Grant is one that supports the arts and the Foundation has acknowledged that traditional wooden boat carpentry is an art form. The mission of the Heritage Boatworks at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is to “recover, preserve, and pass on the traditional art of boat carpentry as practiced in St. Augustine”, and with a 451 year tradition of building wooden craft in St. Augustine, the Heritage Boatworks have plenty to choose from.
View of the skipjack toward the starboard stern quarter
The design of the craft originated in Essex on the Connecticut River and was brought to Northeast Florida by a Captain Watrous around 1850. The skipjack under construction is a replica of a craft that was originally built on the St. Johns River in New Berlin, outside of Jacksonville between 1875 and 1880. During the Great Depression in October, 1936, the craft was documented as part of a WPA project called the Historic American Merchant Marine Survey (HAMMS). Her dimensions, fastening, manner of framing, and the type of woods that went into her construction were all recorded in some 26 pages of field notes with measured drawings and photographs the end product of which became a set of ship lines that were drafted from all the collected data. This information was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. where all the records from the HAMMS project are archived. These lines and notes were used by the Boatworks to project and replicate the shape of the hull. Continue reading →
During the second week of October, The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum launched its new lunchtime Maritime Training Program for Lighthouse staff and volunteers. Through the program participants learn to row as a team as well as how to handle small sailing craft. The purpose of the program is to help Lighthouse staff and volunteers better understand and appreciate the unique marine environment of St. Augustine. Understanding how the winds, currents, tides, and shoals of our local water’s effect ship’s and boat’s navigation gives staff and volunteers a more personal connection with the sea. This in turn gives them confidence on the water and also enables them to better interpret and share our maritime history and archaeology with our guests.
A model hull of the Florida skipjack is now complete, built over the past several months by volunteer boat builder Ralph Koebke. Ralph brought his model to the lighthouse on Friday to compare with the full size replica currently under construction at the lighthouse Heritage Boatworks program. Using the same ship lines as the full size replica, he has paid attention to the smallest of details to create an accurate, scale model of the vessel. Over the coming months, he will work on constructing a rig for the model. So far, he has logged over 150 volunteer hours on the project, and has done great work!