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.
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