ALICANTE, Spain – A replica of one of Spain’s famous sailing ships, known as galleons, dropped anchor on Tuesday in the Mediterranean city of Alicante, its first Spanish port of call after a year-long journey around the world.
The “Andalucia” Galleon is a full working-scale, wooden replica of a Spanish West Indies fleet galleon used during the 16th-18th-centuries and manned by a volunteer crew.
“One of the things I will miss the most is this spot at the front of the ship, the cutwater,” said Jemima Soutter, one of the volunteers. “All you can see is the endless ocean in front of you, the sound of waves crashing against the bow below and the creaking of the rigging behind you. There is something that makes me feel at home out here,” she said on her blog.
Spain is a centuries-old seafaring nation which built a global-encompassing empire thanks to its naval fleet linking the country with its far-flung territories, which were referred to as an “Empire on which the sun never set.”
Behind this imperial reality were the merchant galleons, 16th-century state-of-the-art vessels driving an ocean-faring quest of discovery, empire and commerce.
The “Andalucia” was built to symbolize that centuries-old fleet of armed merchantmen ships weighing between 500-1,200 tons, capable of a top speed of 17 kilometers per hour.
These ships, some 40-60 meters (yards) long linked Spain to its American and Asian territories.
The “Andalucia” was launched in 2010 and has covered over 50,000 nautical miles (92,000 kilometers) and has acted as Spain’s floating goodwill embassy during the 2010 Shanghai World Exposition.
It has been visited by over one million people in over 70 ports.
An ocean-going galleon could have three or four masts, with two or three of its forward masts square-rigged and the aft mast lateen-rigged (triangular) with over 10,000 square meters of sail.
Deep in the water, laden with its precious cargo, it became a coveted prize for pirates, corsairs, Buccaneers and other raiders.
However, these Spanish cruisers of the high seas had enough firepower to fend off raiders flying the “Jolly Roger” (Skull and Cross-bones black flag).
The Andalucia is suitably armed with 10 cannons on its aply-named cannon deck.
The ship embodies the mastery of the Spanish shipbuilders; three years of research were needed to perfect its construction process.
Information was gleaned from Spain’s historical archives which at the time were the repositories of one of Spain’s most jealously guarded secrets: their shipbuilding technique.
The Spanish naval historical organization, the Fundacion Nao Victoria, inspired the construction of this Iroko (a hardwood) and pine wood-crafted ship which took five years from laying its keel to its sea trials.
The result was a four-masted, seven-sail, 500-ton galleon with a crew of 15-35 members.
Since 2010, the “Andalucia” has crossed the Atlantic, Indian and Atlantic Oceans as well as the Mediterranean, Aegean and Caribbean
Seas, the Bosphorus and Gibraltar straits, and the Suez Canal.
In 2017, the “Andalucia” visited Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the United States Virgin Islands, the USA, Canada and in Dec. it finally arriving back in Spain, in Malaga.
The 55 meter-long floating museum is now open to the public at Alicante. with an admission fee of 6 euros (adults) and 3 euros for children aged 5-10.
The ship will remain in port (Pier 10 -Volvo Ocean Race) between Jan. 17-28.
For those with an adventurous spirit, the Nao Victoria foundation has an ongoing volunteer sailor’s selection process, for three-six month sailing stints on their replica of the Nao “Victoria,” the first ship to circumnavigate the world.
Soon there will be another ship, the Nao “Santa Mari,” one of the three ships with which Columbus discovered America.
The “Andalucía” operates both as a School Ship and a floating museum throughout the year as part of the Andalusian Volunteer Agency, and Spain’s Sail Training Association.
A lucky few will learn to perform sailing guards, sail maneuvers, school visits, nautical training, events organization, workshops, advertisements, filming of documentaries or attend tall-ship festivals.
Volunteers have their accommodation, food, accident insurance and crew clothes included.
The principles learned on board include companionship, respect, discipline and order, an essential component of living on board. Being a crew-member is demanding, but it is also an experience one will never forget.