Ship Straight Out Of 1500's Visits South Coast To Bring Part Of California's History To Life

May 19, 2017

It looks like a typical weekday morning at Santa Barbara Harbor.

There are tourists wandering along the breakwater, fisherman preparing to go to sea, and people getting ready to take their sailboats out to sea. But, here’s something attracting a crowd at a dock. It looks like a slice out of a history book: a nearly 100 foot long, 150 ton full scale replica of a Spanish galleon which is visting Santa Barbara County for the very first time.

Tourists are snapping pictures of the “San Salvador,” which is a duplicate of the first European vessel to explore the California Coast.

Ray Ashley is President, and CEO of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, which researched and built the San Salvador. He says it was the first European ship to visit the California Coast, and besides visiting the Channel Islands, it discovered San Diego Bay.

Ashley says the crews were incredibly adventurous, became the ships sent out to explore the world often didn’t return. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Spanish explorer who led the expedition, which discovered among other things San Diego Bay, never made it home. He was out in the Channel Islands when he fell off the vessel, developed gangrene, and died. He is buried in the islands, although there is a debate over on which island.

The San Salvador is the result of a decade of research, planning, and construction by the San Diego museum.

It’s in Santa Barbara now through Tuesday, as a guest of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. Greg Gorga is Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, says the San Salvador visit is a great fit with the Museum’s educational mission. He says the vessel is open for touring through the weekend, and before it leaves on Tuesday, you can even book a voyage.

Ashley says he hopes visitors will realize that America’s history didn’t just start on the East Coast, but started just as early on the West Coast as well.