| held up as
Ubilla was delayed in Vera Cruz by a severe storm. Echeverz waited out the winter months
tied to the Havana docks,and trading for tobacco during the parties that seemed to go on
without end. Finally Ubilla arrived injune 1715, and within a month of replenishing and
refurbishing the combined fleets were ready to sail back to Spain.
Two days out of Havana, just as the fleet approached the narrowest northern part of the Bahama Channel, the hurricane struck. Aboard the Capitana the crew took in the reefs of the topgallant, lowered the crew-jack, and battened down the hatches for bad weather they knew must lie ahead. By mid-day the lanterns were lit, and as the storm grew in fury the sails were lowered except the headsail to keep the bow into the thundering waves now rolling across the channel from the east. Before long the Carmen lost the bowsprit from plowing into the white water now washing over her main decks. Then the topgallant masts and sail fell onto the forecastle, dragging in the water until cut free. With the steerage gone the Carmen was at the mercy of the hurricane now shrieking around her. A large wave struck the stern shattering cabin windows in the high poop deck and sending water flooding into her stern. In spite of the damage the ship struggled on, now near the looming coastline of Florida. The sound of breakers ahead caused Echeverz to order his bow anchors dropped, and the ship caught hold and swung once more to face into the wind. The hold had begun filling with water and the pumps failed to hold their own against the rising water and the captain ordered the crew to lighten ship and everything that
could be pushed over the side, including many of her cannon, disappeared into the raging seas. Somehow the Carmen missed the outer reef, still holding with her anchor, and then struck hard on a reef only 900' offshore where she rolled on her starboard side and sank in 19' of water. There was little loss of life.
After the hurricane passed, the Carmen' supper works remained above water and one of the
large ship's launches seemed repairable. The survivors began moving what provisions they
could salvage to the beach where they set up a small camp. The 24 foot launch was repaired
and sent north to the main salvage camp where Ubilla's Capitana had sunk 2 miles south of
today's Sebastian inlet. Sebastian Mendez, pilot of the Carmen, was in charge of the
launch that was then dispatched to St. Augustine to advise of the disaster that
Because much of the topworks of Carmen remained above water
most of her registered treasure was salvaged. As the 1715 fleet began to be salvaged by modern day methods in 1965 the wreck-site of the Carmen was well known because of the pile of cannon lying -directly offshore of the northernmost green of the Rio Mar golf course. But it took a back seat to the efforts at Fort Pierce and Sebastian where the gold and silver seemed to cover the bottom of the ocean. It wasn't until 1969 that Mel Fisher moved his Treasure Salvors operation to the Carmen wreck-site. Here, opposite a small point of land, he uncovered 19 cannon and 2 large anchors. The blowers also uncovered 149 gold coins, numerous bars of gold, 2 beautiful gold crosses that at one time ornately hung pearls, and over 40 pounds of silver coins. It was their best salvage year in several years, and on a site they felt had little to offer. The area just inshore of the cannon and ballast pile is deep sand. Hard bottom reef stretches the last 100 yards to the beach, in some areas exposed at low tide. Under the edge of this reef, in water 4-5 feet deep a number of artifacts have been recovered in recent years. Richard MacAllaster's Peninsular Salvage group worked a riffle box mounted on a small pontoon barge in 1985. They had spotted traces of gold dust everywhere, but trying to pick it out of the reefs was like trying to pull hen's teeth. After 2 weeks, and a lot of fun playing prospector, the group recovered a few ounces of gold dust, and a piece of gold jewelry. The year before MacAllaster's group recovered several bronze crosses near the cannon pile. John Brandon working the Endeavor out of Fort Pierce has always seemed lucky on the site and in 1986 he recovered 5 gold coins during the few days he worked Rio Mar. There seems to be treasure on the site, and following the scatter pattern of the rest of the 1715 fleet, it would probably be found a few hundred yards north and near the beach. The site remains one of the greatest in terms of photography because of the
19 cannon and 2 large anchors still on the site, grouped in an area 100' x 100' approximately 900' offshore from the extreme northern end of the Rio Mar golf course at the south end of Vero Beach.
"Sunken Treasure On Florida Reefs," by Robert "Frogfoot" Weller
For additional information see: "Galleon Hunt," "Shipwrecks Near Wabasso Beach," "Salvaging Spanish Sunken Treasure," "Famous Shipwrecks of the Florida Keys." by Robert "Frogfoot" Weller,
1715 Fleet Spanish Plate Fleet
1715 Fleet Jewelry