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San Salvador Replica Ship Visits Santa Barbara During Pacific Heritage Tour

Maritime Museum of San Diego's creation sails to Santa Barbara, Channel Islands to recreate voyage of European explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo


The San Salvador ship sailed into Santa Barbara Harbor this week, sticking out among the yachts and comparatively small sailboats, and locals can tour the historic vessel during its brief stop in town. 

It was designed and built by the Maritime Museum of San Diego to be a replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's ship, which was the first recorded European vessel to sail along California and survey the coastline, according to the museum.

There was no written record or images of the ship, and people did five years of research into what the ship would have looked like before spending another five years building it. It was launched in July of 2015. 

The San Salvador's visit to Santa Barbara is part of its Pacific Heritage Tour along the coast, from San Diego to the Channel Islands, and back. 

“Because Cabrillo Voyage was so important to Santa Barbara, to Santa Barbara Channel, it’s really wonderful to bring this educational vessel to Santa Barbara,”  said Greg Gorga, executive director of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

“And of course we have a lot of things named after Cabrillo, we’re on Cabrillo Boulevard basically. And Cabrillo is believed to be buried on St. Miguel island or Santa Rosa island, so there’s a lot of history here.” 

When visitors arrive for tours, they get the opportunity to see the Maritime Museum, and enter the patio set up as a little educational village with text panels providing information about Cabrillo and the voyage.

On the ship tours, people will see that the ship is set up how it would’ve been with the original crew. There’s food on the table, cages with chickens, and a couple swivel guns and cannon that they would’ve used for defense, even though theirs was a voyage of peace. 

The staff on board provide in-depth historical context providing clear descriptions how life was on the ship, the different kinds of people on board, and the different roles assigned to them.

The Maritime Museum of San Diego designed the San Salvador, a replica ship of the one used by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo to explore California in 1542. Click to view larger
The Maritime Museum of San Diego designed the San Salvador, a replica ship of the one used by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo to explore California in 1542.  (Julia Lee / Noozhawk photo)

Tours are available to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day through Monday, for a cost of $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and free for children under 5 and active military personnel. 

Tickets include admission to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum in addition to the tour.

The four-hour cruise scheduled for Tuesday is already sold out. On Tuesday night, people can buy tickets to board the ship for a six-day sail to San Diego with stops at San Miguel Island, Santa Cruz Island and Catalina Island to recreate a portion of Cabrillo’s voyage. 

San Salvador was the first European vessel to explore California’s coast. In 1542, it traveled to San Diego and the Santa Barbara Channel and people aboard the ship interacted with the Chumash, which was really the first European interaction with the Chumash.

“This is early exploration,” Gorga said. “We always think of the North American and the American experience as the pilgrims arriving on the Mayflower, our Jamestown in the south. But you know this happened even before that. So this is the first exposure to people other than the natives, to the California Coast. And so that’s really an educational experience. I think it’s important we know a little bit about our history and this is a big part of our history. It’s a maritime story so it fits perfectly with the Maritime Museum.”

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum hopes to host the San Salvador every other year in the future.

Noozhawk intern Julia Lee can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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