Marcia Lane –
The bare bones of a replica 16th-century boat are a promise of things to come at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.
“We’re recreating the history of St. Augustine one board at a time,” said John Stavely, manager at the tourist attraction that increasingly offers visitors a chance to discover the roots of St. Augustine.
Or as Pedro Menendez de Aviles re-enactor Chad Light puts it, “We’re rebuilding Menendez’s empire.”
The 37-foot boat being recreated was a landing craft from the Spanish ships that once anchored offshore from the park, thought to be where Menendez and his party landed in 1565.
The boat is known as a chalupa (no relation to the Taco Bell product) and was a 10-oared watercraft that brought in soldiers, settlers and goods from the ships.
The chalupa is historically accurate, based on research by Sam Turner, director of archaeology at the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum.
If things go as planned, the chalupa will be the start of a boat building operation that will feature replica 16th-century Spanish vessels and canoes used by the Timucuan Indians, plus support companion maritime events.
A 16th century boat building yard is under construction.