People in the New York area have a rare opportunity to go aboard a historic replica of a 16th century Spanish galleon. El Galeón is docked along the Manhattan side of the Hudson River after spending two months in St. Augustine as part of the commemoration of Ponce de León’s discovery of “La Florida” in 1513.
This wooden replica of the famous explorer’s ship was part of Viva Florida 500, the celebration of five centuries of history. With a crew of 28 aboard, she departed Spain in April to sail over 3,500 nautical miles. The voyage was made using navigational technology that was available during that time period. El Galeón is 170-feet long, weighs 495 tons, and has 9,600 square feet of sail area that must be maneuvered by hand. She has is a system of ropes and pulleys that are hand operated.
El Galeón was the type of ship that was part of Spain’s West Indies fleet. Ponce de León was a member of Christopher Columbus’ second expedition to the New World in 1493. A few years later, he was named provincial governor of the eastern part of Hispaniola. In 1508, King Ferdinand II sent him to Puerto Rico to explore for gold. He was successful and named governor of Puerto Rico.
Spain’s monarchy encouraged him to continue his search for new land and additional gold. The explorer had heard rumors of a fountain of youth on the Caribbean Island of Bimini. He led a private expedition with hopes of finding the island, but instead, landed on the coast of Florida in April, 1513. This marked the beginning of a European presence on what would later become the U.S. mainland.
As part of this 500th anniversary, El Galeón stopped in Puerto Rico before stopping in Miami, Cape Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, and St. Augustine. The ship was only scheduled to be in St. Augustine for two weeks, but was so popular, the weeks turned into two months. Ponce de León explored that area in 1513.
The ship arrived in New York the end of July and is docked at Pier 84, Hudson River Park, 12th Avenue and 43rd Street. She is owned by the Nao Victoria Foundation of Seville, Spain. This 500th anniversary represents both a historical and cultural mission that is supported by the government of Spain through the Consulate General of Spain in New York.
Written by: Cynthia Collins, Senior Museum Correspondent