By Caitlin Ludwig | email@example.com
Sailing all the way from Spain, the El Galeon a 170 foot, 495 ton replica of a Spanish ship built in 2010, is reminiscent of what used to sail the coasts of Florida between the 16th and 18th centuries. The original galleon, the San Pelayo was developed by Pedro Menendez, our city’s founder.
The ship is responsible for establishing St. Augustine as the first European settlement in the United States as it carried 800 colonists and supplies to the nation’s oldest city in 1565, making St. Augustine’s bay America’s oldest seaport.
Aside from helping found our city, the galleons were also used to transport soldiers, colonists, goods and culture between America and Europe. The ships were a major source of trade in the trans-Atlantic, and were often a target of pirates. In defense of the pirates, the ships were armed with iron cannons and artillery.
Today, the cannons and other features are only for show, and the 9,600 square feet of sail area on the El Galeon is maneuvered by female captain Rosario Fernandez and her 15 crew members.
The El Galeon has been all over the world. The ship left Spain to appear in a festival in China, went back to Spain for a year, and then set sail to North America stopping on its way in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, eventually making its way up the East Coast to New York City and Ocean City, Maryland, before making its way back to its temporary home in St. Augustine.
Soledad Gea Shaw, the “boss” of the ship, left her life in Malaga, Spain to embark on the El Galeon. “I wanted to improve my English and sail the world,” Shaw said. “I love being on the ship and arriving at the different ports, and all the interesting conversations with the new people I have met along the way.”
Most of the crew members onboard are either there to improve their English or quench their love for sailing. Their living quarters, a room full of bunk beds, while seeming a little cramped, was a very “comfortable and fun” experience according to the crew members.
Ignacio Arizon, one of the crew members, saw the El Galeon as a great way to improve his English through giving the tours. “It’s very fun, except when the water gets into our bedroom,” Arizon said.
Although there are no finalized events yet as the city and the ship are still collaborating on ideas, it is only appropriate that the El Galeon came back to its roots as our oldest city approaches its 450th anniversary.
The ship will continue to call St. Augustine home and host tours until the middle of July.
Tours run Monday to Friday from 10 AM to 6:30 PM, and 9 AM to 6:30 PM on the weekends. Flagler students receive discounted tour prices.