Monday, December 22, 2014

Re-Constructing the San Salvador in San Diego.

Not far from Mission Beach the Maritime Museum of San Diego, (1492 North Harbor Dr.
San Diego, CA) is building a full-sized, fully functional, and historically accurate replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s flagship, San Salvador. Plans didn't actually exist so they used old sketches, paintings and written documents to find the dimensions and proportions of the sailing ship. Many of the ship builders are volunteers and they are relearning ship building techniques that haven't been used for over a hundred years. The build site is open to visitors every day from 11am to 4pm. Paul Andreen and I arrived a bit early and Paul managed to talk our way in by explaining what I do.

 In 1542, Juan Cabrillo led the first European expedition to explore what is now the west coast of the United States. The Gulf of California had recently been explored by Francisco de Ulloa, Hernando de Alarc√≥n and Domingo del Castillo, proving that California was not an island. Cabrillo was commissioned by Pedro de Alvarado, Governor of Guatemala, for a voyage up the California coast under the flag of Spain. Cabrillo hoped to find the fabulously wealthy cities known as Cibola, believed to be somewhere on the Pacific coast beyond New Spain, and a route connecting the North Pacific to the North Atlantic -- the non-existent "Straits of Anian".

The Cabrillo expedition sailed out of the port of Navidad, near modern day Manzanillo, on June 24, 1542. Accompanying Cabrillo were a crew of sailors, soldiers, Indian and probably black slaves, merchants, a priest, livestock and provisions for two years. Three ships, the flagship San Salvador built by Cabrillo himself, were under his command. Cabrillo reached "a very good enclosed port" which is now San Diego bay, on September 28, 1542, naming it "San Miguel". He probably anchored his flagship, the San Salvador at Ballast Point on Point Loma's east shore. Six days later, he departed San Diego sailing northward and exploring the uncharted coast line of California. His voyage helped to dispel myths and allowed Spain to proceed with the task of colonizing the expanded Spanish Empire. Cabrillo visited many of the islands along the coast -- Santa Cruz, Catalina and San Clemente, and may have sailed as far north as Oregon.

On December 21st the Maritime Museum will Celebrate  its 44th annual Parade of Lights. Modern and historic ships are covered in Christmas lights and the floating parade can be seen from the Maritime Museum. Ticket sales help keep the historic reconstruction work going.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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