The long metal legs appear out of place next to the wooden pilings of the landmark pier at Amelia By the Sea condominiums.
The metal legs, three of them, are temporary, serving as a crutch to help rebuild 90 feet of the pier — ravaged by Hurricane Matthew. These legs will then walk, and ultimately sail, away.
The legs are a retractable feature of the Polly L vessel owned by Amelia Research & Recovery. While the one-of-a-kind Polly L is designed to hunt for sunken treasure, it also can provide
marine services like the local project.
The Polly L isn’t actually rebuilding the lengthy pier on Amelia Island. It is providing a platform for a dock-building company to do so. A future project might entail helping geologists take core samples near Myrtle Beach.
“We’ve got a lot of people curious about what we’re doing out there,” says Doug Pope, the head of Amelia Research. “Especially when the sun is setting on (the hull of the Polly L). It really lights up.“
Pope says his company was contacted by representatives of the condominium on South Fletcher Avenue. They had seen the unmistakable Polly L parked in the harbor in downtown Fernandina Beach.
Amelia Research is using its treasure-hunting crew to operate the Polly L during the dock work. The company is receiving $6,000 per day when it can work, and $5,000 for bad-weather days when it cannot.
Pope figures his workers will be finished in another week, weather permitting. Then the Polly L will saunter away from the popular pier, like walking on its mechanical legs, and then speed to the south end of Amelia Island.
There, Pope’s crew will resume searching for the granddaddy of Spanish galleons, the San Miguel. Amelia Research owns the rights along Amelia Island to search for the $2 billion payload from the San Miguel.
“We’ll be there until the weather runs us off in the fall,” Pope says. Then, the next stop could be Jupiter for the winter. There, the 1659 San Miguel Arch Angel is believed to be buried. Pope is pursuing the rights to search the sight along Jupiter’s coast. It’s mostly a matter of finding the funds to do it.
The San Miguel Arch Angel is also a valuable wreck. Amelia Research found about $250,000 worth of silver coins at the site in a previous search. So they want to return.
It’ll take raising $400,000 to acquire the rights. Pope is soliciting the funds through a convertible note offering, similar to what the company did to pay for the $1.6 million Polly L (which Pope believes is now worth closer to $3.5 million).
“No one has ever found the ship,” Pope says, nodding about its presence. “Oh yeah, it’s there.”
(Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor and a chartered retirement planning counselor with a major U.S. firm, who lives and works on Amelia Island. His financial columns appear in several newspapers in North Florida and in South Georgia. He has published a book of his favorite columns from the last 20 years, “All About Money.” The paperback book is available at local bookstores and on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)