Sunken Vessel Stops Pier Construction

Monday, October 22, 2007
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a cease and desist order last week pending a determination by the Alabama Historical Commission for the development of piers at the site of the future Shellbank Landing condominiums. Kim Lea of Lea Diving and Salvage Company said developer Dent Boykin contacted him to determine whether there was a hazard in the water where new boat piers were to be built. The piers will be built in front of the future Shellbank Landing condominiums located at the base of the bluff on Blakeley River in Spanish Fort, near the Mobile Bay Causeway. Lea surveyed the area and found what looked like an existing boat hull, he said. It is now up to the Alabama Historical Commission to determine whether the vessel will be considered historical. According to Boykin, the Commission has not confirmed a date for when the determination will be made. It was on the second day Lea was surveying the vessel when area residents showed up at the site and began to tell him what they thought it was — the Chiquimula, a four-masted schooner. The Chiquimula was once captained by Capt. James Buffett, grandfather to singer Jimmy Buffett and his sister Lucy Buffett, owner of Lulu’s at Homeport Marina of Gulf Shores. In was in1939 when the shipping company left the Chiquimula in the Delta to be moored. However, due to high water, it drifted and ended up in the Tensaw River. It was common practice for shipping companies to abandon ships because they were becoming obsolete. According to Boykin, since the vessel was not in good condition, it was moved to the Shellbank Landing area and later burned to the waterline in 1953. The Mobile Preservation Commission was contacted by Boykin and they said they had no knowledge of the vessel. Boykin then contacted the Alabama state archeologist Stacy Hawthorn, and he told her about the intended survey and how sample pieces of wood would be catalogued and photographed. She asked for copy of the report. Lea set about determining the size of the vessel and what materials had been used to build it. He found one-inch diameter iron rods from the vessel, which were immediately put back in the water to the area. Then, the Historical Commission of Alabama contacted the Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who issued a cease and desist order last Thursday. The Historical Commission will make a determination and let the Corps of Engineers know whether the vessel is historical or not, according to Lisa Coghlan, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Specialist for the Mobile District. As far as construction of the condominiums at Shellbank Landing, Boykin said phase one construction should begin within the next two months. As to the decision of whether the schooner is historic, Boykin said he is in no hurry since the boat has been underwater for 50 years. [Source: http://www.baldwincountynow.com]

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