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El Galeon Joins Nao Victoria in St. Augustine

Published: June 6, 2014

St. Augustine welcomes back the El Galeón, a stately sailing ship that visited St. Augustine in May and June.

The ship will be part of the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine in 2015. Both El Galeón and its sister ship Nao Victoria represent the city’s cultural heritage with Spain and is worth a visit.

The Nao Victoria is docked at the city marina and has been open for tours since Wednesday.

The Nao Victoria is a replica of the first ship to successfully circumnavigate the world. El Galeón is a replica of the vessels that traveled the coasts of Florida between the 16th and 18th centuries, transporting men, goods, culture and ideas, creating ties between America and Europe.

“The Nao and El Galeón bring important interpretive elements to the nation’s oldest port. The maritime heritage of St. Augustine is richer and lengthier than any city in the United States. Our partnership with the Nao Victoria Foundation of Seville will bring tall ships to our waterfront and heritage landscape for years to come and these majestic vessels will complement the maritime heritage programs of many St. Augustine organizations and attractions,” said Dana Ste. Claire, director of the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration.

The visit of El Galeón in the summer of 2013 coincided with the 500th anniversary of the sighting of La Florida by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León.

Although in 2013 El Galeón followed much of the route taken by Ponce de León from Europe to the new world in celebration of the 500, it was not meant to represent one of Ponce de León’s ships.

Ponce de León sailed three ships. His flagship was the large Santa Maria de La Consolación, a carrack also referred to as a nao. This ship represented the large merchant ships used by the Spanish and other European countries. A smaller caravel named the Santiago and a swift bergantín named San Cristobal completed the fleet. La Consolación was a distant predecessor of galleons.

El Galeón is a replica similar to the vessel Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sailed during his voyage culminating in the founding of St. Augustine Sept. 8, 1565. The 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine takes place in 2015.

Many visitors expressed curiosity about how El Galeón compares to Menéndez’s flagship, the San Pelayo.

John Bowyer, a ship tour guide, is quick to point out the similarities of the replica to the San Pelayo. He said, “El Galeón is a 170-foot, 495-ton replica of a Spanish galleon.” That is somewhat smaller than Menéndez’s 600-ton San Pelayo. Bowyer said, “The San Pelayo was probably close to the same length (as El Galeón).”

Although El Galeón represents the later galleons, Bowyer said, “Ships like this actually date back to the time of Columbus’ voyages.” Bowyer, who has done extensive research on colonial period ships, said, “Galleons have a long history.” He explained that the larger ships were either merchant or military ships. As time went on a need was seen for armed merchant ships. He explained galleons evolved from that need and “Pedro Menendez hired architects to design ships like El Galeón.”

Menéndez historian Albert Manucy explained the connection of Menéndez with the galleon in his book, “Pedro Menéndez, Captain General of the Ocean Sea.” Manucy wrote: “Pedro Menéndez, along with Álvaro de Bazán (hero of Lepanto), is credited with developing the prototypes which had the long hull — and sometimes the oars — of a galley married to the poop and prow of a nao or merchantman.”

Susan Parker, in an article in The Record in June 2013 said, “El Galeón reminds us of … the San Pelayo …” She is clear that the ship is a distinct echo of the past and is a worthy representative of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary celebration.

Could the San Pelayo have been moored in our harbor?

Marine Archaeologist Chuck Meide, director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse program LAMP, explained in the Keeper’s Blog that galleons were too large to enter the harbor and had too deep a draft. Menéndez crossed the channel on smaller pataches while galleons remained anchored outside the harbor.

Whether or not large galleons ever entered the harbor does not detract from the significance of the stately ship docked beside the Bridge of Lions where it can be seen and boarded. 

Article via www.staugustine.com

Visit www.carriageway.com for information about St. Augustine events, attractions and lodging. 


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