Spanish galleon sails into Kingston this weekend

(Fundacion Nao Victoria)

If you’ve got salt water in your blood, but no opportunity for a summer vacation someplace more coastal than the mid-Hudson Valley, the next-best thing is usually to spend half a fine day on the Rondout waterfront. If you have any imagination at all, you can easily fancy yourself relaxing at some subtropical beach or a rocky New England seaport. And it helps a lot when a replica of some historic ship is tied up at the dock beside the Hudson River Maritime Museum (HRMM), ready to devour with the eyes or even to climb aboard.

This trend on the Hudson River arguably got started in the 1960s when Pete Seeger’s “folk picnics” raised the money to build the Clearwater, based on plans for Dutch sloops that plied this river a couple of centuries ago. Since then the Mystic Whaler has become a familiar sight, and we’ve enjoyed visits from Henry Hudson’s Half Moon, the Viking longship Draken Harald Hårfagre last fall and Columbus’ Niña a few weeks ago. Just a glimpse of such a beauty under full sail is enough to transport one to a more romantic time as well as another place.

This weekend, the parade of tall ships continues with a visit to Kingston from El Galeón Andalucía, a modern replica of the type of vessel used by the Spanish Crown for maritime exploration and trade expeditions from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Not particularly speedy, but strong and seaworthy, with a deep keel and ample space for cargo and cannons, a galleon of the Fleet of the Indies could easily hold its own in a battle against pirates seeking a share in the plunder of the Americas or the Philippines. A typical galleon had at least three masts – the forward ones square-rigged and the aft ones bearing lateen sails – and multiple levels of decks.

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Designed and built by naval engineer/historian Ignacio Fernández Vial on commission from Fundación Nao Victoria, and launched in 2009 out of the port of Huelva in Spain, the Andalucía is 164 feet long, with a 33-foot beam, 10.5-foot draft and 500-ton gross tonnage. How they’re going to moor that thing within boarding distance of the HRMM seems like an interesting navigational challenge; but she has already navigated the Pacific and Indian Oceans, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and her wake has spread over the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the South and East China Seas, the Aegean Sea, the Bosporus Strait and the Caribbean Sea, covering thousands of nautical miles in an attempt to evoke her ancestors.

In any case, the director of the Museum assures us that we’ll be able to take a deck tour of El Galeón Andalucía from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily between Saturday and Tuesday, August 5 to 8. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 for children aged 5 to 11; children under 5 board for free. Tickets may be purchased online at www.hrmm.org in advance (strongly recommended) or at the docks.

If the siren song of the waves really calls to you, you may be interested to know that five intrepid volunteer sailors are needed for the Andalucía’s voyage from Kingston to Ocean City, Maryland. Volunteer crew members will eat, sleep and work on the ship for several days as she travels south along the Atlantic seaboard. Volunteers will learn to sail the ship as they go. All prospective volunteers must be in good physical condition and over the age of 18. Interested parties may contact Fernando Viota at fernando@fundacionnaovictoria.org.

In addition, the crew is seeking volunteers to sail across the Atlantic with El Galeón on her voyage home from Ocean City to Spain. The voyage will last approximately one month, with tentative dates of August 28 to September 28. Interested parties can contact Ulises Custido at ulises@fundacionnaovictoria.org, call (904) 826-7327 or fill out a request-for-information form at http://bit.ly/2hlOBww.

The Hudson River Maritime Museum is located at 50 Rondout Landing in Kingston. For more info, visit www.hrmm.org/el-galeon.html or www.fundacionnaovictoria.org/el-galeon.

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