From a distance, the irresistible allure of the massive wooden monarch from the Age of Sail aroused one's curiosity. Up close, it inspired one's imagination. Representative of a greatly romanticized era of exploration and pirates, the El Galeon is a replica of the 16th century Spanish galleon. Step aboard onto its main deck and you are transported back to a time when new worlds were being discovered and the tall tales of the seamen who manned these wind-driven vessels were recorded in the ship's log.
Circumnavigating earth's vast oceans to the far side of the world in the 1600's was a risky venture on a wind and a sail, although more likely on a wind and a prayer. Storms, leaks, shipwrecks, disease, starvation, and pirate attacks constantly put the life of the crew in jeopardy. The daunting task demanded of its recruitments substance, skill, savoir-faire and a stout ship. The galleon was one of those ships.
|Ship's wheel and Captain's quarters|
As I strolled the five of the six decks of the El Galeon (the deck with the crew’s quarters was not open to the tour), crew members were available to answer any and all of the questions I desired to ask. Visual aids, interactives, and videos were located throughout the gun deck sharing information about 16th century European sailing techniques and technology, as well as important Florida history exhibits, and the 500 year story since the arrival of Juan Ponce de León on the eastern shore of Florida.
Since the El Galeon’s completion in 2009, the ship has sailed the world. St. Augustine has since been named its home American port for the foreseeable future. It was in Charleston for the weekend and left on Monday, May 9th, to embark on a journey that will eventually take it to the fresh waters of the Great Lakes.
If you missed it, I am sure it will return to Charleston in the future--perhaps, next year if not before. The tour affords you an opportunity to personally touch history and envision life on the high seas aboard a Spanish galleon. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures I took during my visit on Sunday to this remarkable replica of the Spanish galleons.
For more information on the ship and its schedule, go to El Galeon.