Replica of Spanish longboat circa 1539
The Spanish Longboat
The Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez, FL, volunteers replicated one of the earliest foreign boats to come to Florida’s shores, maybe even the first to arrive at the west coast of Florida: a long boat like one Hernando De Soto used to invade la Florida. The Director of the De Soto National Memorial Park, part of the National Park Service, U. S. Department of the Interior, commissioned the project for use in reenactments as well as in parades and celebrations.
Then Museum Director, Roger Allen, and Museum Boat Builder, Bob Pitt, worked together to come up with plans to ensure the 25 foot boat looked historically accurate. The need for the boat to be functional in very wearing circumstances and still hold up caused them to select some modern materials, however.
Built from half inch Okume plywood, cut into five planks on each side and doubled to an inch on the bottom, the boat looks like a large dory. Oars made from cypress, oar locks fashioned from buttonwood, decks from Spanish cedar, and transom from 28 x 28 inch mahagony provide some of the more tradition materials. The bottom was covered with fiberglass and dynel. A stainless steel skid plate was added to the keel to reduce wear from the beach landings which will occur from the reenactments of Hernando De Soto’s invading soldiers. So many different skills were required that nearly every volunteer had a hand in building this 25 foot boat.
The boat needs a crew of at least seven people. It has thwarts built for six oarsmen, one for each of the six oars. Another person mans the tiller, and there is room for others to fire guns at those on shore while the invasion commences.
The reenactment and parade crews dress in period attire and use modern made period weapons to add an air of authenticity to the arrival of Hernando DeSoto.
This boat won The People’s Choice Award at the Mid Atlantic Small Boat Festival at St Michaels, MD, in 2010.