A bit of maritime history comes sailing into downtown Wilmington next month.
The replica sixteenth century Spanish tall ship, El Galeon, will dock Aug. 12 at the newly opened Port City Marina– next to the Wilmington Convention Center – and will be open for tours Aug. 13-23.
El Galeon is a full-scale model of a Spanish galleon. Galleons were used primarily for their cargo transporting abilities, which made them regular targets of scallywags looking to take them over and convert them into pirate ships that traversed the rough Caribbean Sea.
While impressive in stature, the ship also serves as something of a floating museum, Dick Heiser, a member of the Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust (WHET) Board of Directors said.
“It’s got five decks. You know, there’s a gun deck, a berthing deck, an officers’ deck. It’s not only a tall ship, rigging wise; it’s a tall ship with just the decks it’s got,” Heiser noted.
Along the various spots aboard the vessel, he added, will be educational displays about historical sailing techniques and technology.
Heiser and his fellow volunteers with WHET helped bring El Galeon to Wilmington in an effort to raise awareness of the Cape Fear’s history and efforts to better its future. WHET is the group responsible for ushering in the HMS Bounty, a replica used in the 1962 Marlin Brando movie of the same name, in 2012 and the United Kingdom’s Prince William in 2007. El Galeon was featured on the NBC series, “Crossbones.”
“We were looking at what we did in the past with the Bounty or the Prince William and we wanted to do it, we needed to do it, again, especially with what we have coming up here and with the history of the area,” he said.
After “everyone worked their butts off” helping vote downtown Wilmington to the top of the “Best American Riverfront” last year, Heiser said WHET wants to keep it that way.
The non-profit organization has at its mission a desire to support responsible and orderly development of properties and activities along the waterfront.
The ship’s visit will help WHET raise money to do just that. Heiser listed improvements to the public dock and the Visitors Center restrooms along the riverwalk.
But Heiser said El Galeon will also bring something essential to Wilmington residents and visitors.
“To me, it brings our history. It’s that old saying, if you don’t remember history, you’re doomed to repeat it. But also…it’s a chance to really see what life was like on board the ship. The El Galeon is decked out as an educational, historical experience, which I think is very important,” he said. “Plus, sailing ships are just cool.”
Apparently, Heiser isn’t the only one who thinks so. Just a week after announcing El Galeon’s upcoming arrival, he said more than 15 area children’s groups have contacted WHET interested in booking tours.
Admission to board the ship is $10 ($5 for children 12 and under). The group rate for youth- and education-centered organizations is $5 per child, with chaperones attending for free.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.