OCEAN CITY — The replica tall ship El Galeon Andalucia is scheduled to make its return trip to Ocean City next Thursday, creating a unique spectacle as it passes through the Inlet and then narrowly through the Route 50 drawbridge to it temporary home along the bulkhead between 2nd and 3rd streets.
El Galeon made two successful stops in Ocean City, first in 2013 and again in 2014, and delighted thousands of visitors and school-age kids with daily tours and lavish receptions.
El Galeon will arrive off the coast of Ocean City next Thursday and will likely make the trip to its dockside home sometime midday, depending on a variety of factors including the tides, winds and currents. It was scheduled to make a pass in review under full sail down the beachfront in Ocean City on its way to the Inlet, but city officials learned this week that might be in jeopardy.
Because the tide windows are so tight, it will likely be challenging for El Galeon to make the pass under full sail down the beach and then get the sails furled and the yards up in a short time before the passage through the Inlet. Special Events Director Frank Miller remains in contact with the vessel’s crew and was working on some timetable solutions this week, but the pass in review under full sail might be scrubbed in order to accommodate the primary goal of getting the vessel through the Inlet and drawbridge.
Nonetheless, El Galeon Andalucia will create quite a stir when it arrives next week. The last two times the replica tall ship visited the resort, thousands of spectators lined the Inlet jetty and around the bayside and on and around the Route 50 Bridge as the vessel made its harrowing journey to its mooring location on the bayside downtown.
El Galeon draws about 10-and-a-half feet and the water depth in that stretch of bay between the Inlet and the bridge is about 11 feet at high tide, leaving a very small margin of error. In addition, the vessel has about one foot on either side as it passes through the drawbridge, causing the thousands of spectators to hold their collective breath as the vessel is escorted through by tow boats and an armada of smaller vessels.
El Galeon Andalucia has to come through the Inlet and up the shallow bay on a high tide, which would make its arrival next Thursday in a window of about an hour around 11 a.m. Once the tall ship is through the drawbridge and safely moored between 2nd and 3rd Streets, preparations will be made to begin hosting visitors.
The park area around the tall ship’s mooring location will become a festival of sorts for the three-plus weeks El Galeon is in Ocean City with ticket booths, vendors and information kiosks, for example. When El Galeon last came to Ocean City in 2014, roughly 13,000 visitors toured the vessel including individual and group tours and school and summer camp tours. The vessel will also host evening receptions on the deck including pre-arranged tours and cocktail parties. El Galeon will remain at its Ocean City location until it is scheduled to depart on Aug. 28.
When El Galeon Andalucia arrived in Ocean City in both 2013 and 2014, the arrangements were handled through a partnership with the National Air, Sea and Space Foundation, which acted as a middle man of sorts between the town and the vessel’s owner NAO Victoria Foundation. This time around, the town is dealing directly with the NAO Victoria Foundation.
The new-found partnership could have long-term benefits for both parties including regular tour stops for the foundation’s tall ships in Ocean City in the future. For example, the NAO Victoria Foundation is currently developing a replica of the famed Santa Maria, one of three ships sailed by Christopher Columbus to the new world in 1492, which could be ready to tour as soon as next year.