Groundbreaking Thursday for 16th Century boatyard

The St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation announced to local Historic City News reporters that on Thursday, they would re-establish a boatyard in the actual area where, four and a half centuries ago, boats and ships were likely assembled and repaired.

The groundbreaking ceremony at 3:00 p.m. will be held along the inlet shoreline at the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park where archaeologists have established the landing and first settlement of St. Augustine.

The ceremony, November 10, 2011, adjacent to the Mission of Nombre de Dios, will include a presentation of planned boatyard facilities – a thatched roof boat shed, wattle and daub storage house, and pit saw – to be constructed according to historical records of the methods of the times.

Foundation President Maury Keiser says, “We want to have the caravel built in public view, with local labor using the tools and designs of that period, and where residents and visitors can watch its progress.”

Planned are two 16th century ships vital to exploration and support of early St. Augustine: the chalupa, a utility longboat used to off-load larger ships, and the caravel, the 65-foot workhorse of early fleets, including the voyages of Christopher Columbus, Ponce de Leon and Pedro Menendez.

The foundation, established several years ago to build a replica 16th century caravel for the city’s 450th anniversary, envisions completion of the smaller chalupa in time for the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of Florida in 2013.

Keel-laying for the caravel, to be named the San Agustin, is planned for late next year, with completion in early 2015 in time for the 450th anniversary of the founding of St Augustine.

“Through 2015 and beyond, the San Agustin will be used in commemorative events, good will and marketing tours, re-enactments, and public display in St Augustine,” Keiser told reporters. “It will be operated as a heritage tourism venue, an educational focal point, a sailing training vessel, and a continuing symbol of St. Augustine’s maritime heritage.”

The foundation has established a website,, with information on progress, volunteering, sponsorship opportunities, and contributing.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News contributed photograph by George Gardner

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