(Aug. 23, 2013) In what is being hailed as a major logistical and public relations victory, El Galeón Andalucía, a replica of a 16th-century Spanish sailing vessel, successfully berthed in the resort Wednesday without any loss of life, limb, or mast.
The ship left New York on Aug. 18, and had been scheduled to dock in Ocean City on Tuesday afternoon. That timetable was pushed back to Wednesday morning and further delays saw the ship actually moor around noon.
“We were a little nervous there because the current just kept going north,” said city Special Events Director Frank Miller.
Despite having been built as a fully functional replica of a Spanish high-seas vessel, the galleon has two relatively small diesel motors on board to guide the ship into harbor. But even with the assistance of towboats, the ship was unable to navigate through the inlet against the tide, being pushed farther back out to sea and up the coast early Wednesday morning.
Still, hundreds of spectators waited through the morning at various vantage points throughout downtown Ocean City to see the ship round the inlet, navigate through the Route 50 drawbridge, and come to rest at the bayside boardwalk on Chicago Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets.
The galleon will reside there through Sept. 2, with five of its six decks open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for tours.
City Manager David Recor said the event was a major accomplishment, given that the city was only presented with the opportunity to host the vessel in July.
“We basically got this done in 30 days, with only $3,000 in costs to the town,” Recor said. “If this is the type of thing we want to do, we can do it. It’s all about the mindset.”
After the ship’s visit was proposed and approved, the city quickly installed four concrete mats below the bayside boardwalk, two of which were bolted tie-down cleats. The boards were then replaced on top of them, leaving only the cleats exposed in a fairly inconspicuous fashion
“We’ll now be able to host any size vessel we want at this location,” Recor said.
The event was brought to the city by promoter Bryan Lilley, whose company B. Lilley Productions puts on the annual OC Air Show. Lilley is also active with the non-profit National Air, Sea, and Space Foundation, which funds educational and historical events.
This year these included the tall ship event at the “Viva Florida 500” celebration, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon. The galleon was the main attraction of that event and its success gave Lilley the leverage to book another event in Ocean City on short notice.
The ship was built in 2009 by the Nao Victoria Foundation, a non-profit group based in Spain that primarily deals with historical events relating to the 16th-century age of Spanish exploration.
For more information, visit www.tallshipevent.com.