Tall ship El Galeon sets its course for a return to Wilmington

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The popular tall ship, El Galeon, was welcomed last year by crowds hoping to catch sight of the replica 16th century vessel. El Galeon returns to downtown Wilmington for tours next month. File photo.
The popular tall ship, El Galeon, was welcomed last year by crowds hoping to catch sight of the replica 16th century vessel. El Galeon returns to downtown Wilmington for tours next month. File photo.

A much-loved seafaring vessel will soon set sail for a return visit to Wilmington’s riverfront.

The replica 16th century Spanish tall ship El Galeon will reach local waters on May 10, when it will make its way down the Cape Fear River and dock at Port City Marina, 10 Harnett St. in northern downtown. Then, it’s all aboard between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. May 11-15 for would-be pirates and budding buccaneers to get an up-close peek.

As with last year’s arrival – one that was greeted with much enthusiasm and a sea of flashbulbs – El Galeon’s appearance next month is thanks to Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust (WHET), a non-profit organization that supports responsible and orderly development of waterfront properties and activities.

Built in Spain, El Galeon is a full-scale model of a Galleon, a type of cargo ship that was a favorite target of scallywags looking to take over and transform it for pillaging purposes through the rough Caribbean Sea.

As its designation suggests, the 170-foot vessel is impressive in height, but it also bears an equally awe-inspiring layout of multiple decks, most of which will welcome passengers interested in learning more about maritime history, including sailing techniques and technology through educational displays.

El Galeon’s encore trip will again help WHET raise funds needed for its ongoing work to enhance and improve the downtown landscape where it meets the roiling waters of the Cape Fear River. The local group routinely supports improvements to the riverwalk, in addition to backing the U.S.S. Coast Guard’s Diligence and Cape Fear Community College’s annual boat show.

It’s also 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.”

El Galeon will be open to tours for individuals, groups and sponsored events. Tickets are now available online are $10 for adults ($5 for children 6-12 and free for 5 and under). The group rate for youth- and education-centered organizations is $5 per student, and chaperones will be admitted at no cost.  Tickets can also be purchased at Port City Marina on the days of the tours. For information on sponsored events, email whetsecretary@gmail.com.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.