San Salvador replica leads tall ships parade

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San Salvador

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SAN DIEGO — A full-scale replica of the San Salvador, the ship that Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542, is scheduled to make its first major public appearance Friday when it leads a parade of tall ships to the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

The parade will begin the museum’s annual Festival of Sail, a weekend-long program that will include boat tours and mock sea battles.

The replica galleon, launched in Chula Vista near the end of July, will lead a dozen sailing ships beginning around 3 p.m., with the best viewing spots at the museum and other points along the Embarcadero, Harbor Island, Shelter Island and the Cabrillo National Monument.

A commissioning ceremony is scheduled around 6 p.m. at the museum, 1492 N. Harbor Drive.

The San Salvador was under construction by around 500 volunteers for four years at Spanish Landing Park and was moved by barge to a Chula Vista shipyard for its launching. The vessel, which will sail along the California coastline as a floating classroom, matches the original in size, weighing 150 tons and measuring 92 feet long by 24 feet wide. It underwent sea trials Monday, according to the museum.

The original San Salvador came to San Diego as the leader of three ships, when Cabrillo was looking for new trade routes from Mexico to Asia and Europe. The galleon was the first recorded European vessel to sail along Southern California and survey its coastline.

Cabrillo, who had settled in Guatemala, called his discovery “a very good enclosed port” and named the area San Miguel, according to the San Diego History Center. Cabrillo visited many of the islands along the coast and may have sailed as far north as Oregon.

While exploring around San Miguel Island — the westernmost of the Channel Islands — Cabrillo suffered a broken leg and died of infection in January 1543.

Bartolome Ferrelo took command of the San Salvador and the other two ships and explored as far north as Cape Mendocino, where they were caught in a storm and turned back. The returned to their point of origin — Manzanillo, Mexico — in April 1543.

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