Site Description and Interpretation
This following description is based largely on the results of the 2003 fieldwork (Morris et al. 2006: 62-68). As seen in the site plan below, the most prominent features of the site are two large cargo piles, one significantly larger than the other. The larger pile is comprised of hardened cement originally stored in barrels or casks. The smaller pile contains more cement barrels but also large masses of iron concretion which appear to contain pipes and chain. The hull is buried beneath these piles, lying at an angle of about 30°. Some wooden hull remains, including the centerboard, centerboard trunk, and some frames, were exposed during the 2003 investigation and can be seen in the site plan below.
Overall site length, determined through hydraulic probing, is 39.55 m (129 ft. 9 in.). The westernmost cargo pile is 8.79 m (28 ft. 10 in.) in width and 12.95 m (42 ft. 6 in.) long. There is a 4.88 m (16 ft.) space between the western pile and the eastern pile. The eastern pile is 5.64 (18 ft. 6 in.) in width and 9.60 m (31 ft. 6 in.) long. Elevation of the two piles varies greatly but was 1.83 m (6 ft.) above the sediment at its highest point in 2003.
2003 site plan of the Centerboard Schooner Wreck. Click on image for larger version.
Three distinct portions of the articulated vessel fabric were exposed due to scouring in 2002-2003 and recorded in detail. These sections are extant along the vessel’s centerline and include mid-ships framing and centerboard components and a section of the stern assembly. Since the current LAMP administration has been monitoring the site regularly starting in 2006, all of these hull remains have remained buried.
Exposed remains between the two cargo piles in 2003 consisted of four paired frames, two first futtocks, fragments of the heels of half frames butted against the trunk structure, fragments of the keelson, a section of the keel, the centerboard, and the centerboard trunk assembly.
Frames were sided consistently at 8 in. (20.3 cm). There is no space between paired frames, and an 8 in. space between these two frames and the third (16 in. [40.6 cm] room and 8 in. space). Frames are placed on 24 in. (61 cm) centers and are horizontally pinned together. There are also vertically placed drift pins located along the vessel’s centerline to secure the frames. The first futtocks butt on or near the centerline.
Although the centerboard trunk was badly eroded the longitudinal components were measured at 7 in. (17.8 cm) sided. These components extend for over 18 ft. 8 in. (5.69 m) before disappearing under the western cargo assemblage. The centerboard itself is sided at 6 ½ in. (16.5 cm) and runs under the cargo pile. The overall sided value for the extant centerline assembly is 3 ft. 4 in. (1.02 m) The centerboard trunk is fayed to the upper molded surface of these components and steps down to create a step or shelf that accepts the heels of the timbers that are either half frames or buttresses. The single exposed centerline component visible aft of the three frames is the keel, which is 15 in. (38.1 cm) sided. The centerboard is offset to starboard of the keel timber (see the figure below).
Detail of centerboard construction, Centerboard Schooner Wreck. Click on image for larger version.
A section of the stern was exposed within the eastern cargo pile and consisted of half frames mortised into deadwood, one full frame, and fragments of the keelson (see the figure below). Half frame members are sided at 6 in. (15.2 cm). There is only 1 ½ in.(3.8 cm) between frames making a room and space value of 13 ½ in. (34.3 cm). The half frames are mortised into the upper molded surface of the deadwood and are placed on 14 in. (35.6 cm) centers. The deadwood is sided at 12 in. (30.5 cm).
The full frame that is exposed in this area is identical in size to the frames in the run of the hull, with a slight gap of 1 ½ in. (3.8 cm) between floors and first futtocks. First futtock heels butt at the centerline.
Stern construction, Centerboard Schooner Wreck. Click on image for larger version.
Cargo Piles and Hardware
The barrels constituting the bulk of the cargo are primarily of two sizes. The majority of solidified cement barrels remains are 24 in. to 27 in. (61 to 69 cm) in length with a 16 in. (40.6 cm) diameter. The second barrel size is 18 in. (45.7 cm) in length with a 12 (30.5 cm) diameter. Cement preservation is excellent and it is possible to discern cask seam and sometimes wood grain impressions left by the now decomposed wood. Subsequent laboratory analysis indicated it was Portland cement. In addition to delineating the extent of both cargo piles, 2003 researchers also clearly identified several large iron boxes, hollow iron frames, a probable kedge anchor, iron pipes, a large iron wheel, and a large concreted massed of iron chain. No artifacts were recovered, though a sample of cement was collected for analysis.
The site was interpreted as the remains of a centerboard vessel, heavily laden with cargo, measuring probably between 100 to 120 ft. (30.5 to 36.6 m) in length. The offset of the centerboard to starboard of the centerline would have maintained the vessel’s centerline integrity and strength. Although several types of ships were configured with centerboards, the vast majority were schooners involved in coastal trade, the most likely candidate for this wreck. The position of the first futtocks relative to floors, and the butts between them suggest a date range spanning the latter half of the 19th century (Morris et al. 2006:68). As such, this site is significant not only to the region’s maritime history but also within the context of national and international commerce during this period and is probably National Register eligible. The construction material cargo loaded in both the fore and after cargo holds is possibly associated with the Flagler-era construction boom at the turn of the century, which prominently featured the use of cast cement masonry blocks.
Wealthy industrialist Henry Flagler built the Hotel Ponce de Leon and other architectural wonders in downtown St. Augustine in the 1880s. These were constructed from blocks of poured cement, initially brought in by barrels on board ships like the wrecked Centerboard Schooner offshore.
Schooners as a vessel type can be traced to the late 17th century, but the centerboard’s introduction dates to 1774 when Royal Navy Master’s Mate John Schrank fitted a boat with a sliding keel in Boston (Marqhardt 2003:121). The pivoting centerboard, which was derived from this design, was originated in 1809 by another Royal Navy officer named Shuldham. An American patent for this same design was issued in 1811 to Joshua Jacobs and Henry Swain from New Jersey (Marqhardt 2003:121). The first draught known to exist for a vessel with a pivoting centerboard dates to 1833. This schooner, named the Santiago, was built in New York by William Webb for a New Orleans sugar merchant (Marqhardt 2003:126).
As Howard Chapelle (1993:83) has noted, the “introduction of the centerboard had a great effect upon the American commercial sailing vessels.” The design's versatility enabled large centerboard vessels to engage in international commerce on the open ocean and to navigate shallow or shoal ridden coastal environments like St. Augustine. This design feature, when coupled with the simple fore and aft rig of the schooner, produced a very efficient, economical trading vessel. Cargoes carried from abroad or over long distances no longer had to go only to deep-water ports or be lightered ashore by shoal draft boats. The success of this design is reflected in its longevity, with centerboard sailing vessels operating well into the 20th century.
Explore the links below to learn more about this shipwreck and the research that has been conducted to date:
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