Tall ship to sail into downtown Wilmington Thursday

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A replica Spanish galleon is making its way to downtown Wilmington this week to dock for public tours. Photo courtesy Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust.
A replica Spanish galleon is making its way to downtown Wilmington this week to dock for public tours. Photo courtesy Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust.

A Spanish tall ship is headed down the east coast this week en route to downtown Wilmington.

The anticipated arrival of the replica 16th century Spanish vessel, El Galeon, is expected Thursday afternoon, according to Dick Heiser, a member of the Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust (WHET) Board of Directors. The ship will stay docked at the newly opened Port City Marina until Aug. 23 for public tours.

Monday, El Galeon – a full-scale model of a Spanish galleon – was making its way from New London, Connecticut, to nearby Southport, Heiser said. Weather permitting, the vessel will arrive Thursday at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, where the Cape Fear Pilots will board, then steer the ship up river to its berth at the marina.

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.”

The six-deck ship, while impressive in stature, also serves as a floating museum of sorts, where visitors can get a sense of what life was like aboard a galleon, which were used primarily for their cargo transporting abilities–and often the targets of pirates that traversed the rough Caribbean Sea.

“Five of the six decks are available for tour, which holds an exhibition about the San Pelayo, the Spanish galleon that founded St. Augustine, the first city in the U.S.,” Heiser noted. “It carries an all-Spanish crew that lives and breathes the history of the ship and her travels from port to port and in the open sea.”

The ship’s visit – timed, in part, with this weekend’s Port City Rib Fest – will help WHET raise for future downtown enhancements, including improvements to the public dock and the Visitors Center restrooms along the riverwalk. Bundled tickets are available, online only, for the festival, which runs Aug. 14-16, and the El Galeon tour. Bundled tickets may be purchased on WHET’s website or at portcityribfest.com.

Self-guided tours will be available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 14-23. 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.

For more information, email WHET at whetsecretary@gmail.com.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.