We Christened the Chalupa on March 22,2015 at the Fountain of Youth!

Early in 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon, Spanish Explorer and Governor of the Island of Puerto Rico, landed near St. Augustine Florida “discovering” the new land. Already living here were many native people known as Timucua who smoked fish and meats along the marsh side and used canoes to navigate the coastal waterways. The peaceful Timucua left evidence of their existence in oyster shell middens, many archaeological sites,  as did their nearby trading partners, the more war-like Aiz to the South and to the north the Macombo, a name that literally means “of the sea.” A coastal trade network with tribes throughout the region has been documented by archaeologists.

Ponce De Leon claimed the land for Spain, and he launched tremendous changes in the lives of the people who had lived there for many thousands of years. Arriving at Easter time, he named this land “La Florida” after this Feast of Flowers.  He had been sailing south from the 30th parallel, his last recorded northern position just off Ponte Vedra Beach in northern St. Johns County.

Forty years later, what had begun as an assignment for the Spanish Adelantado, Pedro Menendez De Aviles, to establish a defensive settlement in northern Florida changed to something more aggressive when word of the French Settlement on the River May (St. Johns River) in Florida reached the Spanish Crown in Madrid in the Spring of 1565. To expel the French and plant his own colony, Menendez and the King supplied two assault forces. Three ships sailed from the Northern Asturias region of Spain with men and supplies. A larger fleet departed Cadiz in the south, with the nao San Pelayo as lead vessel. The grouping included three Caravels, and four Chalpuas. Menendez, greatly helped by a hurricane, was able defeat French commander Jean Ribault and drive the French out of what he and his king considered to be Spanish Florida. He established present day St. Augustine in the Fall of 1565.

St. Augustine’s history is characterized by this early Spanish period settlement which lasted 200 years from 1565 until 1763, when, by treaty, the British took over settlement for only 20 years, later returning the city to Spanish rule at the end of the American Revolution. The Spanish returned to govern St. Augustine for another 40 years, throughout America’s formative years; and not until 1823 did the American Territorial Government in Florida take over St. Augustine, paving the way toward statehood in 1845.

The Maritime Heritage Foundation  commemorated the 450th anniversary of the founding of St Augustine by building an authentic replica sailing vessel: a Chalupa,  which is a symbol of the Hispanic history and heritage that continue to live in the nation’s oldest city, St Augustine.  This vessel  serves as focal point for educational and heritage tourism activities.  To learn more visit our active Blog which will contain updates and photos of the progress on the Boatyard at the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, the Chalupa, the “San Agustin.”