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Landstar Owner-Operators Ensure Safe Return Trip for Historic Cannons
Twenty-two historic cannons have returned safely to their home at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument on the banks of the St. Johns River in St. Augustine, Florida, thanks to Landstar business capacity owners (BCOs), our term for owner-operators leased to Landstar. BCOs Shannon Lemar, Tim Smith, and team Vada and George Proctor each provided open deck transportation for the restored artifacts across the south from Texas to Florida in August.
History In Motion
Coordinating the movement of tons of historic cargo is no easy feat. Independent Landstar Agent Adam Spencer of Spencer Boys Transportation has now gone through the process twice with the Castillo de San Marcos’ cannons, and several more times with other artifacts shipped to and from the Conservation Research Lab at Texas A&M University (TAMU). The Conservation Research Lab plays an important role in TAMU’s Nautical Archaeology Program and is one of the oldest continuously operated conservation laboratories that deals primarily with archaeological material from shipwrecks and other underwater sites.
“I’m a huge history buff, so I really enjoy working with the Conservation Research Lab. The cargo is always fascinating. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience every time!” said Spencer.
Built by the Spanish in the 17th century, the Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fortification in the continental United States. The fort’s cast-iron cannons date back to the 17th through 19th centuries and range in size from 500 pounds to nearly 8,000 pounds. Corroded by centuries of exposure to saltwater and the sea breeze, the cannons were shipped to the Conservation Research Lab in June 2018 as part of the National Park Service’s multi-year cannon preservation project. Experts and archeology students worked to clean and preserve the heavy artillery using anticorrosion and stabilizing treatments.
Now fully restored, the cannons are once again on display at the Castillo.
Loading and transporting the heavy artillery required a specialized approach due to the size, weight, and most importantly, the historical significance of the cargo. Four Landstar BCOs were more than qualified for the task.
Based in Rayne, Louisiana, Smith has been leased to Landstar for more 19 years and has moved a variety of open deck cargo over the years including industrial washers and dryers, Hazmat equipment and windmill parts. The Proctors have been leased to Landstar for more than 16 years and regularly transport vehicles and military cargo. They were also involved in moving World Trade Center artifacts. Lemar, based in Spring Hill, Florida has been leased to Landstar for a year, and has more than five years of experience transporting open deck cargo. Together, these BCOs ensured the safe transportation of the cannons to the Castillo.
“The cannons were placed on cradles or pieces of wood on the trailer deck. We used half-inch thick foam on the top and bottom to help prevent shifting during transport and to reduce the stress of the straps around the cannons,” said Smith. “We also had to be conscious about how the cannons were strapped down – no chains, only straps. But in the end, everything stayed in place and I didn’t have to make adjustments along the way.”
“Securing the load was a bit tricky, but that’s what we love about this career. It’s never the same load or routine, and we enjoy the challenge of securing everything we move and doing it top-notch,” said Vada Proctor.
One By Land, Two By Sea
The cannons were transported by both truck and barge on the return trip to Castillo de San Marcos. The Proctors transported eight cannons from the Conservation Research Lab in Texas directly to the fort in St. Augustine. These cannons were reinstated to the area immediately east of the Castillo known as the water battery.
BCOs Smith and Lemar each delivered their loads, totaling 14 cannons, from the Conservation Research Lab to Fernandina Beach, Florida, where they were offloaded to a storage facility before being placed on a barge that sailed up the St. Johns River to St. Augustine. These cannons were then lifted by crane to the Castillo’s gun deck on an upstairs portion of the fort facing the river, an area that is most easily accessed from the water.
Three cannons that required more in-depth restoration remain at the Conservation Research Lab, and three additional cannons have since been shipped for restoration as part of the ongoing project.