OCEAN CITY — Nearly three years after it sailed off and disappeared over the horizon, the 16th century Spanish Galleon replica El Galleon Andalucia could be returning to Ocean City late this summer.
During a budget work session on Thursday, Special Events Director Frank Miller told the Mayor and Council there had been cursory talks with the foundation that supports the El Galleon Andalucia about a possible return to the resort in August. The 170-foot, 500-ton tall ship replica visited Ocean City twice in recent years, arriving for the first time in August 2013 and returning the same month the following year and Miller said the majestic vessel could make a return trip this summer.
“We’ve had conversations with the foundation that brought us the Spanish galleon back in 2013 and 2014,” he said. “They are interested in coming back this August. We are going to start communicating with them to see if that’s a possibility.”
The El Galleon Andalucia created quite a stir the first time it visited Ocean City in August 2013, first when it appeared in the haze offshore and made its way through the Inlet with an escort of dozens of other vessels, and then when it narrowly squeezed through the Route 50 drawbridge to its final mooring area along the bulkhead at 3rd and 4th Streets. The same process played out when the tall ship returned in August 2014.
Each time, the El Galleon Andalucia spent nearly a month moored in Ocean City, hosting thousands of curiosity seekers and hundreds more school kids on daily tours. The gracious crew invited tourists aboard and showed them the ins and outs of the five-deck vessel and a glimpse of life aboard a working merchant ship from several centuries ago.
Miller said the discussions were only preliminary and a final decision was pending. Miller said there were some details to check out if and when the tall ship returns including the status of the shoaling in the channels in and around the Inlet. He said the El Galleon Andalucia is a replica with a fiberglass hull with a fairly shallow draw, but there would still need to be some precautionary measurements needed before it returns.
“We have to check to make sure we have the water depth to get that vessel into the 3rd and 4th streets mooring area,” he said. “It’s a unique vessel and it rides pretty shallow. When it gets through the Inlet and starts to head north, that’s where it gets pretty shallow.”
Mayor Rick Meehan encouraged Miller to pursue a dialogue with the foundation about bringing the tall ship back to the resort.
“It would be really nice to have that back again,” he said. “It was a nice display and people really enjoyed it. It brought people downtown to our parks around 3rd and 4th Street and that’s important.”
El Galleon Andalucia is currently in Panama City, Fla., although it is set to sail to Galveston, Texas next week. According to its website, the tall ship will sail north in May with stops in Charleston, Norfolk, Baltimore, Boston and various ports in Canada. However, its current tour schedule ends in Halifax, Nova Scotia in late July and it will likely sail south again along the Atlantic coast in August, making a return trip to Ocean City a real possibility if there is a will to bring it back and the logistics can be worked out.