Sunday, August 25, 2013

Florida's 500th Anniversary and El Galeon

Are you aware that this year, 2013, marks the 500th anniversary since Juan Ponce de Leon landed in Florida? The state of Florida is doing some special things to commemorate the occasion, and while vacationing in St. Augustine last month, my family and I got to see one piece of the celebration. I wanted to share a bit about it with you.


El Galeon, © Jennifer Uhlarik
When we arrived in St. Augustine for our few days away, it didn’t take us long to notice a huge wooden ship docked beside the Bridge of Lions. We quickly learned that the ship was a life-size, all-wooden replica of a Spanish Galleon, like those Ponce de Leon and his contemporaries would’ve sailed. El Galeon, as it was called, was making the rounds of several Florida ports—Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Cape Canaveral, and St. Augustine—docking for several weeks at each in order for visitors to take self-guided tours of the impressive vessel. El Galeon had such a great turnout the first weekend in St. Augustine that they opted to stay from several months in order to accommodate the visitors.

Looking toward the stern, ©Jennifer Uhlarik
The life-size replica measures 170 feet in length, and weighs 495 tons. Forty crew members manned the ship and sailed it on the same general path that Ponce de Leon took to Florida 500 years ago. (You can see an interactive map of their route here). I have never been much of a sea-faring person, so stepping onto such a ship was awe-inspiring. It was also pretty mind-boggling when I began to realize that, while large, a ship this size didn’t provide a lot of personal space for that many people. And when you stop to consider that back in the days of New World exploration, many times an explorer would set out with several ships, only to lose some along the way. When that happened, the crew of the abandoned ship would get absorbed into the crews of the other ships. So by the end of their voyages, these ships often carried two or three times the number of people than they started with. Just imagine the trouble getting to use the bathroom must have been. LOL

Bathroom. Was this authentic to the time period?
©Jennifer Uhlarik

On a side note, one of the interesting things we were told while vacationing was that many of the explorers’ ships were lost not to storms or running around, but rather to a particular type of clam, the shipworm or toredo worms, that lives in saltwater and eats wood. These worm-like clams would begin to bore into the wooden vessels, and over time, the ships would spring leaks. When the crew couldn’t stop the incoming water, they would inform the captain that the ship couldn’t be saved, so they would flag down their sister ships, abandon their own, and watch it sink as they sailed away. After stepping foot on such a magnificent ship as El Galeon, I can only imagine the heartbreak such a sight would cause.
Tall ship! ©Jennifer Uhlarik

While El Galeon has departed from St. Augustine as of July 23, my understanding is that the crew will be sailing up the eastern seaboard for the next 3-5 years on tour. If you missed the ship in Florida, you might still have an opportunity to see it in another eastern port. And we also were told that El Galeon had petitioned to make St. Augustine its home port while not out touring. At the time we were there, the petition was being considered, but no decision had been made. Hopefully those in power will allow it, as it seems only fitting to me that such a ship should make historic St. Augustine home. You can find more impressive photos here.
Ship's bell. ©Jennifer Uhlarik

Now it’s your turn. Have you ever been onboard a boat or ship (including small boats or cruise ships)? What was your experience like?



Interesting view of Anastasia Island from El Galeon.
©Jennifer Uhlarik
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won the 2012 CWOW Phoenix Rattler, 2012 ACFW First Impressions, and 2013 FCWC contests, all in the historical category. She is also the winner of the 2013 Central Florida ACFW chapter's "Prompt Response" contest. In addition to writing, she has been a schoolteacher of English, literature, and history, as well as a marketing director. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.

11 comments:

  1. Very interesting posts. I hadn't heard about the worms before. That would be disheartening to lose a ship that way. Can't wait to read your books! I grew up reading Louis L'Amour also. I even collected his books.
    tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

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    1. Hi Sally, thanks for stopping by today. The worms were one of the interesting facts we learned that I'd never heard of before. Thank you for the interest in my books. I'm yet to be published, but my agent and I are working on changing that. I'll keep you posted. :)

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  2. Thanks for sharing Jennifer, interesting to read this about the ships and Florida's Juan Ponce de Leon...I was on a ship in Savannah River but many years ago and not sure what it was, they have many that come in though and are a pretty sight..tall ships esp.
    Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

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    1. Hi Paula, I'm so glad you stopped by today. My hubby and I have been up to Savannah and seen the river, but we didn't have an opportunity to take any type of cruise while there. That would be fun, though.

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  3. I have only been on a cruise ship. It was a short 4 day trip (from Vancouver to San Diego). Unfortunately, the weather did not co-operate. I am a little afraid of water, but had no trouble dealing with the seas. We couldn't see the coast during the day for the fog. It was scary when someone had to be airlifted off the ship.

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    1. Oh my goodness, Martha, yes! That would be frightening. My husband and I took a cruise for our honeymoon (we actually had 2 honeymoons, six weeks apart. Long story there. The cruise was the 2nd one). Anyway, it was a fun experience. No airlifting on our cruise, thank goodness!

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  4. Hi, Jennifer!

    St. Augustine is beautiful, & so is this ship! I have been on a pontoon, steam boats, ferries, small tour boats, & several cruise ships - but never a ship with sails. Was also stranded briefly near the Charleston Harbor (surrounded by huge ships)in my brother's small motor boat - when the engine flooded. Scary!

    I was much more comfortable on the cruise ships than the other vessels - however, with all the problems with cruise ships in the last couple of years, am not as anxious to take another cruise as I once was! I got seasick on a 24 hour cruise from Florida to the Bahamas, but never on the other sea trips, several of which were a week long. The scary part for me is that I can't swim - almost drowned when I was young, & have always been scared to be IN the water afterwards, even though I dearly love to be ON the water, as well as look at, & listen to, it.

    Interesting story about the shipworms - hard to believe they could bore through a ship during the length of a trip, & devastating that the ships had to be left behind when it happened!

    bonnieroof60(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. I'm so glad you stopped by, Bonnie! Thanks for sharing your experiences on the various ships and boats. I can understand your fear of water, but I find it interesting that you don't mind being onboard a ship. My husband and I really enjoyed the one cruise we've taken and keep considering another, although I agree, with all the recent cruiseline troubles, it's kept us from committing to another one thus far.

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  5. I really enjoy Tall Ships and went a few years ago to the Tall Ships parade in San Diego Harbor. We bought tickets on the Harbor Cruise boat which sailed among the Tall Ships. What great views we had of lots of beautiful ships. sharon, CA

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    1. Hi Sharon, the Tall Ships parade sounds like it would be a lot of fun. My oldest brother was born in San Diego, but I've never been. Maybe one day, I could plan a trip there to see that part of my family's history AND see the Tall Ships parade. Fascinating, all the things our nation has to offer!

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  6. I really enjoy Tall Ships and went a few years ago to the Tall Ships parade in San Diego Harbor. We bought tickets on the Harbor Cruise boat which sailed among the Tall Ships. What great views we had of lots of beautiful ships. sharon, CA

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