A Spanish galeon sailed up the Hudson River for what may be the first time ever on August 11th and docked near the Intrepid for a little over a week, looking a bit like a Model T parked across from a Cadillac Fleetwood at a Barret Jackson event.
The ship, which is 175 feet long and weighs 470-plus tons, is a replica of the cargo ships used during the 16th and 17th centuries by Spanish traders and explorers like Ponce de León, who is thought to have used a similar vessel to sail from Puerto Rico to Florida in 1513 to search for the fountain of youth.
Constructed and owned by the Nao Victoria Foundation based in Seville, Spain, where it was was built using traditional methods, El Galeon Andalucia sailed to New York City from St. Augustine, Florida, where it docked for several weeks to commemorate Florida’s discovery by Spanish explorers 500 years ago.
While a galeon this size would have had trouble navigating the shallow inlets of Florida in places like St. Augustine, a river as deep and wide and the Hudson would have easily accomodated the ship, even if fully loaded with the sugar, tobacco, fruits, lumber and spices it carried north from the Caribbean as part of it’s trade route.
El Galeon’s 28-member crew work, dine, bathe and sleep in extremely close quarters, much like their seafaring forebears. These days, though, there are women on board — a situation that would have been unheard of back in the day.
“It took us 24 days to cross the Atlantic,” said crew member Lucrecia Moron Sanchez. “Sometimes you wake up and you look around and there is nothing but the ocean and you feel bad.”
But generally, the recent grad, who majored in art history, was enjoying the high seas adventure with the predominantly male crew of volunteers from Andalusia.
By the time they return to their home port in Seville, the crew of El Galeon will cover more than 900 nautical miles, working more than 9,600 square feet of sail like Spanish sailors did half a millennium ago.