OCEAN CITY — The 15th century replica tall ship Santa Maria of Christopher Columbus fame will be making an appearance in Ocean City for nearly a month starting in August.
The Mayor and Council had before them on Tuesday a request to approve a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a Nao Victoria Foundation to bring the replica tall ship Santa Maria to Ocean City for a 25-day stint beginning next month. The foundation designed and built the replica Santa Maria in 2017 and it has been touring around seaports all over the U.S. in recent years.
The council ultimately approved the MOU for the Santa Maria, which is expected to arrive on Aug. 11 and open to the public for tours starting Aug. 12. The tours will end on Sept. 5 and the replica vessel will depart Ocean City on Sept. 6, although those dates are subject to change.
The Nao Victoria Foundation brought the Santa Maria’s sister tall ship El Galeon Andalucia to Ocean City three different times in 2013, 2014 and 2017. In 2018, the replica Viking ship Draken arrived for a stint in Ocean City, but the town has not hosted a tall ship since.
The Santa Maria’s visit starting next month will follow a similar path as its predecessors. The El Galeon, for example, on its previous visits sailed down the coast under full sail and came through the Inlet before passing through the Route 50 drawbridge to her final mooring site along the bulkhead between 3rd and 4th streets. The El Galeon’s arrival was always widely celebrated with spectators lining the Inlet and the bayside to watch the majestic replica ship’s trip to its final destination.
The Santa Maria’s arrival should be no less spectacular, although the vessel is considerably smaller than her sister El Galeon. Special Events Director Frank Miller outlined some of the highlights of the replica ship’s visit next month. While El Galeon drew attention because it navigated through the drawbridge with just inches to spare, Miller said the Santa Maria is smaller.
“The Santa Maria is a 15th century replica ship,” he said. “It’s about half the size of the El Galeon. It was considered very modern at the time. It was the flag ship of Christopher Columbus’ three-ship fleet.”
Miller explained despite its smaller size, there were other issues to be resolved including how much water the replica ship draws and the depth of the channel along the 3rd Street bulkhead.
“It will travel through the Inlet and turn north through the drawbridge before making a 180-degree turn,” he said. “Water depth continues to be a concern, but with recent surveys, we’re confident it will get in there easily.”
The downtown park at 3rd Street will become a festival of sorts during Santa Maria’s visit with vendors and daily tours of the visiting vessel. The event requires the closing of Chicago Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets including the temporary loss of 12 paid parking spaces during the duration of the visit. Otherwise, bringing the Santa Maria to town requires little other investment, resulting in an expected cost-neutral event offset by the potential to lure visitors to town and the nice, late season added amenity.
Adult tour tickets will cost $15, while a ticket for a child from five to 12 years old will be $6. There will also be a family package available for $35. Vendor space fees in the park during the Santa Maria’s visit will be $275. The town will earn a portion of the ticket sales for the tours, but will also provide the fuel for the Santa Maria’s departure in September, making the event essentially revenue-neutral in terms of expenses.
Miller said unlike her sister ship El Galeon, the Santa Maria will not be bristling with cannons.
“There are no cannon ports,” he said. “They were not needed with not many vessels traveling across the Atlantic at that time.”