Along the historic waterfront of downtown Pensacola, a living piece of history sailed into Pensacola Bay this afternoon, as dozens of onlookers gazed out in awe and seemed to become lost in time.
A grand ship appeared over the horizon — the El Galeón Andalucía, a replica of the 16th century tall ships that once sailed from Europe to the New World, often by way of Pensacola. The ship sailed in from the Gulf of Mexico and through the Pensacola pass, just as Tristán de Luna and many other explorers did in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The historic sailing museum is flanked by two modern-era megaships berthed at the Port of Pensacola, where the days of wooden sailing ships lining up in Pensacola Bay to bring in and export goods and lumber are long gone, replaced by a burgeoning offshore energy industry. The ship is similar to the one that de Luna, governor of Florida in the 16th century, sailed when he arrived to what today is the bay of Pensacola.
The visit by the El Galeón is being held to celebrate the history of Pensacola as America’s First Settlement of the new world. Visitors can board and tour the vessel during its stay and can take a step back in time nearly 500 years and experience what it was like for the Spanish explorers that discovered and conquered Pensacola.
“The ship is arriving in Pensacola to show and represent the relationship with the Spanish sailors that arrived a long, long time ago,” said Capt. Manuel Murube Fernandez. “We’re trying to show to the Pensacola citizens how the Spanish sailors sailed when they arrived here and have them try to imagine how difficult it was.”
El Galeón is a replica of the late 16th century fabled merchant vessels and war ships that made up the early navies of Europe. She is the only galeón class vessel sailing the open seas today. The ship, built in 2009, measures 170-feet long by 125-feet-tall, has a 30-foot beam, weighs 495 tons and draws 10.5 feet of water.
“Pensacola represents the mutual history of Spain and the United States,” said Maria Davis, honorary vice consul of Spain in Pensacola. “Spain was the superpower of its day and in 1559 the Spanish made their first settlement in Pensacola.”
The Galeon will be open to visitors starting this Sunday through Sunday, November 1. The ship is docked at Plaza de Luna on South Palafox Street and will be open from 10 a.m. through 7 p.m. daily. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children, 5-12 years of age. Children under 5 years old receive free admission. Five of the six decks are available for tour and the ship carries an all-Spanish crew that lives and breaths the history of the ship and her travels from port to port and in the open sea.
For more information on El Galeon or to purchase tickets, visit www.elgaleon.org.