In the weeks leading up to the start of the First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project in July, LAMP staff have been working around the clock to meet all the challenges necessary for this ambitious undertaking. This includes writing the research design, securing permits, purchasing and preparing equipment, developing a dive safety and operations plan, facilitating engine repairs and generator installation on the boat, arranging for dorm and cooking facilities for the incoming Flinders field school students, among all the other day to day activities that take place at LAMP. One potential problem facing us was how to accommodate eight Flinders University field school students, four Flinders staff, and three LAMP staff offshore. With only our 28′ Bertram RV Island Fever, we don’t have a big enough dive platform to handle those numbers. We needed another boat.
Then, out of the blue, our wish was answered, with the donation of LAMP’s newest vessel, RV Nickerin.

The Nickerin is a 1993 21′ Seaswirl Striper with a 140 horsepower Evinrude outboard motor. This very generous gift to our program came from Titusville resident Marshall Snyder, and the donation was facilitated by our volunteer Evelyn Jayne. Since it was originally purchased, Evelyn has maintained the engine on this vessel, and she has done some more work–including rebuilding the starter and installing a new bilge pump and Bimini–before turning it over to LAMP. It was a very exciting day when she first brought the new boat to the Lighthouse.
Evelyn (at left) shows off the boat and its engine to LAMP Director of Archaeology Sam Turner (center) and Lighthouse Board member and volunteer boat captain Ray Hamel.
Now its time for a sea trial. We’ve decided to trailer the boat and drive it to Bing’s Landing, located on the Intracoastal Waterway around 20 miles south of St. Augustine past the Matanzas Inlet.
Bing’s Landing, nestled in a maritime oak hammock, is an eight acre park located in Flagler County and is equipped with an excellent boat ramp.
The park also contains an archaeological site. Protected by a large roof, these are the remains of the Mala Compra plantation house, which have been excavated by archaeologists. These architectural remains, of the great house, kitchen, and well, are a rare example of a Florida coastal plantation dating to the early 19th century.
Mala Compra, which means “bad deal” or “poor bargain” in Spanish, was owned by Brigadier General Joseph Hernandez, Florida’s first voice in the U.S. Congress and also its first Hispanic member. General Hernandez purchased the 724-acre Mala Compra Plantation in 1816 for $1,500. The plantation, which at the time was the largest in northeast Florida, was destroyed in 1836 by the Seminoles during the Second Seminole War, and never rebuilt.
Launching the new boat is successful.
As we prepare the boat for a river cruise, Sam deploys the new Bimini.
As we speed along the Intracoastal Waterway, Sam is the first to take the helm.
This waterway is a truly beautiful place, one of the few places left in Florida without too many obvious signs of development. The boat handles these waters well, with a top speed of just under 40 mph. At this speed, we can’t leave the Bimini up or else it will be damaged by the wind.
We cruise past another historic site, Fort Matanzas. This coastal fortification was built by the Spanish in 1740-1742, to guard the “back door” to St. Augustine. This was the inlet, which could allow ships to enter the Matanzas River some 14 miles south of the town. Today the site is protected and managed by the National Park Service as a National Monument. It is a fantastic site to visit, and includes a free boat ride to the Fort.
As we return to the dock, it doesn’t take any more convincing–we like our new boat. It is well suited for both survey and diving, it will allow us to utilize more divers when used in conjunction with our larger research vessel, it will allow us to work more remotely by trailering it where needed, and it affords us a mid-sized vessel to compliment our 28′ Bertram and 13′ Boston Whaler. All in all, a fine craft, and one which will serve us well with the start of major field operations the first week of July.
UPDATED: Check out the video below, of the Nickerin underway in Salt Run in 2008.