A full-size, fully functional and historically accurate $6.2 million replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s flagship, San Salvador, is under construction at Spanish Landing Park on Harbor Drive and nearing completion.
San Salvador was a 100-foot, full-rigged galleon with a 10-foot draft and a capacity of 200 tons. She carried officers, crew, slaves and a priest.
Being built for the San Diego Maritime Museum, the replica will launch soon.
The construction site, called “San Salvador Village,” opened in June 2011 and is accessible to the public. The project gives people the opportunity to see an example of 16th-century shipbuilding, which was the first modern industrial activity in the Americas.
The replica galleon is 92 feet long with a beam of 24 feet. When construction is completed, San Salvador will be launched on San Diego Bay and will become part of the museum's fleet of historic and replica ships.
After four years of work by some 200 volunteers, the scaffolding around the ship has started to come down. Over the next few months, preparations for her launch will take place. Then the rigging process will begin.
The San Salvador was the flagship of explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542 when he sailed into San Diego Bay. Cabrillo was the first European to explore the coast of California.
Once it’s finished, the full-size galleon will be opened to visitors and for educational programs. Museum officials said it would also sail to ports throughout the state “as a traveling learning platform and symbol of our region’s Pacific origins and maritime heritage.”
The project is partly funded by a grant from the Coastal Conservancy, a state agency established in 1976 to purchase, protect, restore and enhance California's coastal resources.
The San Salvador construction site is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at Spanish Landing Park south of the airport. You can also watch construction progress on a 24-hour webcam at anr.ucsd.edu/cam-eras/SLC.html.
In all, Cabrillo’s expedition fleet had three ships: the 200-ton galleon San Salvador, the 100-ton La Victoria and the lateen-rigged, 26-oared San Miguel.
The two other ships were not the square-rigged galleons commonly used for crossing open ocean. Rather, they were built in Navidad, Mexico, especially for exploration along the coast.