‘Maritime miracle’: Replica of 16th-century tall ship to set sail in Georgetown Dec. 5-10

30 Nov

‘Maritime miracle’: Replica of 16th-century tall ship to set sail in Georgetown Dec. 5-10

For five days, residents and visitors of South Carolina’s Hammock Coast® will have the rare opportunity to experience what it was like to sail on a 16th-century tall ship.

The South Carolina Maritime Museum in Georgetown will welcome a replica of the Nao Trinidad — the flagship of the Magellan/Elcano expedition leading the first sailing around the world between 1519 and 1522. The ship will visit Georgetown Landing Marina from Dec. 5-10.

The original Nao Trinidad was the flagship of the Magellan/Elcano expedition leading the first sailing around the world between 1519 and 1522. A replica will visit Georgetown Dec. 5-10. (Photo provided by Nao Victoria Foundation)

Tour times are Tuesday-Thursday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Friday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5  for children from 5-12 years old, $35 per family (2 adults and up to 3 children); and free for children under 5 years old.

Visitors will be able to take a self-guided tour of the 93-foot ship, walking through most of the four decks on which they will find banners and other exhibition elements, as well as QR codes for a free audio-guide throughout the vessel. Crew members will be there to answer questions and share some insights about the adventures of the original ship, as well as their own experiences while sailing Nao Trinidad.

Hope McFadden, director of the South Carolina Maritime Museum, said she has been in talks with the Nao Victoria Foundation, which owns the ship, for several months to set up this visit.

“We were hoping to have one of their ships visit in the next year or two,” McFadden said. “When they reached out the week of Thanksgiving and said they were available to visit Georgetown in two weeks, we figured this was our very own maritime miracle.”

She said she is excited that the tall ship will be visiting Georgetown and said she appreciates the support of the Georgetown Landing Marina to make the event possible. She said the museum is accepting donations from the public to help cover the cost of bringing the ship here.

“We encourage locals and visitors alike to take this chance to learn about the Age of Exploration by visiting the Nao Trinidad and then stopping by the South Carolina Maritime Museum to explore more regional maritime history,” McFadden said. “As the museum grows, we continue to look for ways to engage and bring our community together, especially through its maritime heritage.”

The Nao Trinidad was part of an expedition that circumnavigated the globe for the first time, which was, at the time, the greatest maritime feat in history. It opened new routes, connected continents and oceans, and introduced the peoples and cultures that inhabited the lands they touched along their immense journey: Brazil, Argentina, the Mariana Islands, the Philippine Islands, Indonesia, Brunei and Timor.

The expedition set sail from Seville, Spain, on Aug. 10, 1519, at the head of a fleet of five ships which, following its guidance, crossed the Atlantic, sailed along the coast of South America, discovered the Strait of Magellan and crossed the Pacific Ocean for the first time in history. However, when they reached the Mariana Islands, the Philippines and the Moluccas, the destiny of the Flagship Trinidad would change.

After more than two years at sea and with the fatigue of sailing thousands of nautical miles, the Nao Trinidad sprang a huge leak in its hull. This prevented its return to Spain from the Moluccas with the expedition’s only other surviving ship— its companion, the Nao Victoria. The latter did make it home, completing the first sailing around the world just months later.

Meanwhile, the Nao Trinidad was involved in the toughest incident of the voyage. With the damage repaired, it attempted to return to Spain by sailing eastward, with 54 men on board, but was defeated by strong headwinds and currents. It was forced to sail northward until it reached the 42nd parallel north, when a violent storm nearly caused its wreckage.

The Nao Trinidad, shown here at another world port, will visit Georgetown Landing Marina from Dec. 5-10. Tour times are Tuesday-Thursday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Friday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (Photo provided by Nao Victoria Foundation)

Cold, hunger, thirst and scurvy mercilessly struck the ship and its men. Giving up, the ship returned to the Moluccas after six months of suffering and fighting against the sea, with just 17 survivors. There, the Portuguese were waiting for them; they captured the crew and abandoned the battered ship in those waters, where, exhausted and damaged, it met its end.

Antonio Pigafetta, the main chronicler of the expedition, managed to complete the first sailing around the world with the Nao Victoria. Throughout the entire journey he wrote a beautiful account of the journey and its events, and a magnificent description of the geography, nature, and the indigenous peoples who were met throughout the planet: their cultures, customs, beliefs, vocabularies. It is a magnificent ethnographic account by the people who traveled on this first circumnavigation.

The construction of the vessel was carried out respecting her forms and details with historical rigor, applying an innovative and revolutionary system in the shipbuilding sector of historical replicas of these characteristics, combining the construction in fiberglass and its lining of wood. The work lasted approximately 14 months, and the ship’s launch was on March 11, 2018.

Ulises Custodio Unzeta, director of international tours for the Nao Victoria Foundation, said he is anticipating a great visit to Georgetown on the Hammock Coast. 

“After having sailed up and down the East Coast over the years with several of the Nao Victoria Foundation’s historical vessels, it is finally now that we have the chance to visit Georgetown with the help of the South Carolina Maritime Museum,” he said. “It is very exciting for us to bring this piece of maritime history to town for the first time, and we hope that both locals and tourists in town appreciate and enjoy our museum-ship.”

Unzeta said that over the last couple of years, the ship has sailed and visited ports all along the East Coast, from the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Puerto Rico to the Great Lakes, making stops at almost every state on the East Coast.

“We look forward to welcoming on board the people of Georgetown and neighboring cities,” he said.

For more information about the Nao Victoria Foundation or to order tickets for the tall ship tour, click here. For more information about the South Carolina Maritime Museum, click here. The Georgetown Landing Marina is located at 432 Marina Drive in Georgetown.

By Clayton Stairs / tourism manager for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce and South Carolina’s Hammock Coast®

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