by Margo C. Pope
Salt, holy water, and white wine combined with the prayers of Father Tom Willis on Sunday afternoon as he christened a replica 16th-century chalupa work boat built by the Saint Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation. The 37-foot-wooden boat honors the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine in 1565 by the Spanish.
The ceremony took place at the Founders Dock of the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park where the boat was built by volunteers who put in more than 4,000 hours over a three-year period. Maury Keiser, president, and Roy Jaeger, vice president, thanked the “boat builders” with commemorative etched mugs. Volunteers will continue their work on the masts and the sails over the next few weeks.
As he began the christening ritual, Father Willis prayed, “Lord be well disposed now to our prayer, and with thy holy and mighty hand, bless this boat just as you were pleased to hover over the ark of Noah in the great deluge. Reach out as you did to Blessed Peter as he walked upon the sea. Send your holy angel from on high to watch over this vessel and all on board. Ward off any disasters and guide its course through calm waters to its desired ports. Then after time itself has elapsed and we come to that great day of judgement, may you and your loving providence bring all with glad hearts to those shores through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.”
Father Willis first poured salt into the boat to ward off demons and then followed it with holy water to bring God’s blessings on the boat and its occupants.
He then took the white wine and poured it into the boat and said, “In the name of the Lord, Our God, I now christen San Agustín de Hipano.” The moment of christening was the first time the boat’s name, “San Agustín” was made public. It is named in honor of the city’s patron saint, Augustine of Hippo. A chalupa is a work boat that would off-load people and supplies from the tall ships, which could not dock in a port.
San Agustín will be home-ported at the Fountain of Youth, which is the documented site of the landing of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles and more than 800 soldiers and settlers on Sept. 8, 1565.
For more information, see www.fountainofyouthflorida.com and http://staugmaritimeheritage.org/