By Jack Gallop | June 9, 2021 at 11:15 AM EDT – Updated June 10 at 8:26 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – A photographer in Oak Island spotted a replica of the Nao Santa Maria sailing the Cape Fear River on Wednesday morning.
Andrew Miller, owner of AEM Creative Photography, submitted the photos at the bottom of this story to WECT’s See It, Snap It, Send It page, showing the ship during its voyage toward Wilmington.
The replica of the ship sailed by Christopher Columbus in 1492 arrived in Wilmington around 11:30 a.m. and will be docked along the Downtown Riverwalk until June 15 for self-guided tours.
It stopped in Wilmington, two years ago and crew members say it’s been quite a journey since then.
“We went down again to Puerto Rico and then Panama and we crossed the Panama Canal,” said crew member Angel Rosa. “That was in 2020 before the pandemic came. And then we went to Mexico for a film production, and then after the production the pandemic broke down and we got stuck there for year. Finally, after a whole year of being stuck there, we were able to move and here we are.”
The crew is back on the invitation of Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust, which has brought the replica ship to Wilmington to the delight of many visitors.
“We define ourselves as a floating museum,” said Rosa. “Usually people are surprised by the size of the ship. They were expecting a bigger ship, but we got to keep in one that we’re talking about more than 500 years ago. This was actually a very big ship for that time.”
The Santa Maria is just 93′ feet long. It was built to spec using the journals of Columbus’ journey.
Crew members at each level can answer questions and discuss experiences traveling from port to port on the “floating museum.”
A visit to the Nao Santa Maria consists takes visitors through the 5 decks of the ship, with informative panels on the history of the ship, ornamental elements of the time and background about the lifestyle of the Spanish sailors 500 years ago.
Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust President Stephanie Fornes says the experience is an educational opportunity for all ages covering “one of the most important historic landmarks in the discovery of America.”
According to its website, the ship’s fiberglass and wood construction was completed in 2017 and it has sailed to more than 30 ports, commemorating the history of the Santa Maria.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for kids and $35 for families (includes up to two adults and three kids).
The Santa Maria is currently heading north on its educational journey to escape hurricane season.
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