El Galeon sails into Wilmington; tall ship tours start Wednesday

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Replica Spanish tall ship El Galeon reached Wilmington waters as scheduled Tuesday morning, en route from Charleston, South Carolina. Courtesy photo.
Replica Spanish tall ship El Galeon reached Wilmington waters as scheduled Tuesday morning, en route from Charleston, South Carolina. Courtesy photo.

The tall ship has returned.

A crowd of passers-by and would-be pirates gathered along the downtown Wilmington waterfront Tuesday morning to watch the encore arrival of El Galeon.

The full-scale replica 16th century Spanish vessel and its all-Spanish crew crossed under the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge at about 11 a.m., en route from a three-day stop in Charleston, South Carolina to Port City Marina, 10 Harnett St., where it will open up for tours May 11-15.

It’s a sight familiar to those who stood watch back in August, when El Galeon traversed much rougher seas to arrive with much fanfare in the Port City.

The ship’s second voyage was again arranged by Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust (WHET), a non-profit organization that supports responsible and orderly development of waterfront properties and activities. Tours aboard vessels like El Galeon allow WHET to raise funds for its efforts to enhance and improve the downtown landscape. 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.

Visitors to Southport's waterfront were able to catch a glimpse of El Galeon as it made its way to the Port City. Photo by Ben Frazier.
Visitors to Southport’s waterfront were able to catch a glimpse of El Galeon as it made its way to the Port City. Photo by Ben Frazier.

Built in Spain and based in Florida, El Galeon is modeled after the Galleon, a type of cargo ship that, due to its size and storage capabilities, that often caught the eye of scallywags who would take over and take off for the Caribbean Sea.

The 170-foot vessel is certainly impressive in height, but it also bears an equally awe-inspiring layout of six decks. Five of those six will be open to visitors, who will also get a peek at an on-board exhibition about the San Pelayo, the Spanish galleon that signaled the foundation of America’s oldest city, St. Augustine.

The San Pelayo arrived at the Florida coast 500 years ago, carrying St. Augustine’s founder Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, along with dozens of crew, more than 300 soldiers, about 800 colonists and all the supplies needed to establish the coastal town.

Tickets to explore El Galeon are $10 for adults ($5 for children 6-12 and free for 5 and under) and are available online or in person on the tour dates. The group rate for youth- and education-centered organizations is $5 per student, and chaperones will be admitted at no cost.

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

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