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I hope this developer gets bitch-slapped with some serious fines for trying to raise the remnants w/o proper authorization.

over on [ulr=]buffett news forum[/url], he's saying that he's going to raise the ship and then he tells the press that he just wants to "survey" it's location? sure...

Work halted on Buffett shipwreck
Friday, October 12, 2007
Staff Reporter

SPANISH FORT -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday ordered a condo developer to stop digging up the sunken remains of a four-masted schooner once captained by the grandfather of singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett.

The decaying wooden hulk is that of the Chiquimula, a longtime Mobile Bay-area landmark, which was commanded for many years by Capt. James Buffett, a highly regarded Gulf Coast master mariner.

The vessel's charred hull, buried for more than 50 years beside the shore of Blakeley River near the Causeway, lies in the way of plans for boat slips at Shellbank Landing, a planned 57-unit condominium project.

Last week, a diving contractor hired by real estate developer Dent Boykin and his business partners began using a high-pressure pump to uncover the underwater remains of what Boykin thought was a vessel singer Jimmy Buffett mentions in a song and in a book.

Boykin said the contractor, Kim Lea of Lea Diving & Salvage Co., was not destroying the vessel -- Lea was surveying the vessel so that builders could avoid damaging it when they later place the pilings for the condo project's 57 boat slips. Lea also planned to remove the highest parts of the ship because they would endanger boaters at the future condo site, Boykin said.

But, Boykin said, at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, a Corps of Engineers official arrived on site and "told us to cease and desist." Work on the boat slips is on hold until the Alabama Historical Commission determines whether the ship is historically significant, and how the project should then proceed. The Press-Register's efforts to contact corps officials were unsuccessful late Thursday.

Greg Rhinehart, an Alabama Historical Commission official contacted by a Press-Register reporter early Thursday afternoon, said the agency had issued no permit to conduct work on the shipwreck. Rhinehart said the commission only learned of the shipwreck's disturbance when a Press-Register reporter called about it Wednesday.

Boykin said he hadn't sought an Alabama Historical Commission permit he didn't think one was needed.

"I'd love for them to bring their expertise here and do a real study," Boykin said. He and Lea apparently had been trying to conduct their own marine archaeological study without knowing what they were doing, he said.

Lea said he had so far removed tons of silt and mud, in some places 10 feet deep, from most of the wreck. The underwater dirt was contained within a filter fabric curtain surrounding the work site, he said.

"We want to make sure that we don't destroy anything that could be of interest," Boykin told a reporter Wednesday. Boykin stood a few feet from an open trailer piled with what appeared to be a hatchway cover, pieces of the ship's ribs and hull, spikes and brass screws, as well as and other objects.

State records show the vessel at the excavation site by the shore of Blakeley River is in fact Capt. James Buffett's 176-foot Chiquimula.

The Chiquimula was a Mobile area landmark for nearly 13 years at the east end of the Bay Bridge Causeway before vandals burned it to the water line in 1953, according to Press-Register reports at the time.

In his book "A Pirate Looks at Fifty," Buffett wrote that in the years before World War II, his grandfather plied the waters of the Caribbean as skipper of a five-masted barkentine named the Chicamauga -- apparently a misspelling of the name Chiquimula.

In his song "False Echoes," Buffett sings that:

Now the old Chicamauga has slipped by the ways

She lies on the bottom of old Mobile Bay

State officials said they had found no record so far of a sunken vessel called Chicamauga in the Mobile Bay area.

According to Press-Register archives, the schooner Chiquimula was one of three built by the United Fruit Co. in 1917 and once hauled railroad ties and steel to plantations in Central America before being decommissioned in about 1920.

The Press-Register was unable to contact Lucy Buffett, the sister of Jimmy Buffett and the proprietor of LuLu's at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores. A publicist for Jimmy Buffett said she was unable to immediately answer a reporter's questions regarding the entertainer's writings about the vessel.

The Shellbank Landing project is planned for 3.5 acres at the foot of the eastern shore bluff, just off the Causeway. The land has about 800 front feet on the river, Boykin said. Unit prices would range from $400,000 to $499,000 and each would have a boat slip. The project is currently in the sales phase, he said.

"We actually think it would be really neat for people to know that this ship is underneath their boat slips," Boykin said. He said he is collecting local stories about the vessel in hopes that he can later put them together in book form. "We didn't want to hurt the ship. We wanted to preserve it."

(Staff Reporter Cammie East contributed to this report.)
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