Maritime Museum Christens San Salvador Replica

July 30, 2015

Yachting Journal

Photo: Museum of San Diego

The Spanish ship San Salvador is the embodiment of California’s origin story. The ship’s voyage in 1542, with Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo at the helm, established California as one of the places in America’s landscape where we can say our country truly began.

Nearly 500 years later, the Maritime Museum of San Diego has launched a full-sized, fully functional replica of the original galleon. The San Salvador was successfully lowered into the Pacific Ocean by Marine Group Boat Works of Chula Vista. The Maritime Museum of San Diego hosted a champagne christening Wednesday in celebration of the launch at Bayside Park in Chula Vista.

The ship was christened by Museum donor Vi McKinney. The event also featured San Diego dignitaries including County Supervisor Greg Cox, Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas, Port Commissioner Dan Malcolm and Cabrillo National Monument Superintendent Tom Workman.   

“We have been supported by many in our ambitious goal of constructing a replica of the San Salvador,” said Dr. Ray Ashley, CEO of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. “The christening ceremony has been years in the making, and we would not have reached this milestone without our many volunteers and donors, and the support of San Diego’s elected officials and the community.”

Built for trade, the original San Salvador was a three-masted ship of 200 toneladas, meaning it could carry 200 barrels of cargo. It was the capitana or flagship for the expedition of explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in his attempt to discover the wind patterns of the North Pacific and establish a route to China. While the San Salvador did not make it to China, it was the first European ship to explore the Pacific coast of what is now the United States.

The present day San Salvador was built at Spanish Landing in San Diego between 2011 and 2015 by the Maritime Museum of San Diego and its legion of approximately 500 volunteers. The vast majority of funds spent during construction were contributed by donors. The Port of San Diego offered use of Spanish Landing Park, allowing thousands of spectators to witness the ship’s construction progress.  

The San Salvador will make its public debut Labor Day weekend at the Port of San Diego’s 2015 Festival of Sail, hosted by the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

AmericaCaliforniaGreg Cox