America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, has another secret! The earliest known water transportation in America was found in De Leon Springs, a site not far from St. Augustine. This boat find featured two prehistoric dugout canoes from approximately 6000 years ago. Historians believe that the watercraft were built by local Native Americans, including the Mocama and Timucuan Indians.
When the area was colonized by the French and Spanish, boat-building traditions changed. Colonists in St. Augustine used small vessels such as dugout canoes and barca chatas to move food and share goods with other people. Eventually, these small boats were rigged with sails and Native Americans made the trip to Havana. These types of boats improved life for the colonists and Native Americans because transportation provides a greater degree of self-sufficiency. Later, armed vessels sailed the St. Augustine waters, patrolling against English colonists in the Carolinas and Georgia.
Over the previous 450 years, local cultures including the English, Minorcans, Italians and even Mediterranean settlers changed the boat-building process by bringing their own ideas. Boats were an important part of life for St. Augustine residents, allowing access to complicated river systems that were useful for fishing, oystering and even social networking.
Local lightkeepers traveled by boat to Anastasia Island and even made sea rescues. During these historic times, boat-building skills and secrets were kept in the family and were shared through the generations.
In the 20th century, commercial boatbuilding boomed in St. Augustine, along with the seafood industry. To learn more about local boat building and maritime history, visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. Call the Lighthouse at 904-829-0745 or visit them at 100 Red Cox Road, St. Augustine, FL 32080.
Make plans to stay in St. Augustine. We can help! Use the rental finder tool on our page at Vacation Rental Pros and get the ideal spot for you.