A SPANISH Galleon moored up in Dartmouth last weekend, giving local people a chance to discover a unique piece of itime history, writes Richard Harding.

El Galeon was moored up at the town jetty until Monday, and I took a change to climb aboard.

It’s not every day you get to step aboard a Spanish galleon but when El Galeon came to Dartmouth she was well signposted in English, Spanish and French. We learnt the main food was a pound cake often eaten rotten, we found out about the different parts of the ship such as the bowsprit mast, the keel and the quarter deck. We saw the stern lantern which is used to communicate with other galleons of the same fleet at night.

El Galeon is a replica of ships that sailed the Indies fleets which were the longest in length and lasted the longest in navigational history. She was built by the Fundacion Nao Victoria, designed by Ignacio Fernandez Vial and built at the Punta Umbria shipyard in Spain. She was launched in 2009 with the masts added the following year.

Project spokesperson Ulises Custodio explained: ‘‘She was built in 2009 as part of the Shanghai World Expo. It’s a mixture of old-time shipbuilding with a bit of modern technology. The galleons were for over 300 years the kings of the sea. They were the merchant ships of the time and they were carrying goods from the old world to the new world and also to south east Asia because at that time Spain had colonies there as well, the main one being the Philippines.’’

An imposing ship of 55 metres in length with six decks, made of iroko and pine wood, and with almost 1,000 square metres of sail area in her seven sails, she was built with careful historical accuracy. She came to Dartmoor with a young crew on board, as part of an experience of sailing the world. A true floating museum of Spanish maritime culture, she has already sailed more than 55,000 nautical miles across oceans and seas around the world, visiting ports on four continents, including Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila, New York and Quebec.

Her stopover in Dartmouth was part of her great 2023 tou which is seeing her visiting various ports in Europe – Spain, France, Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom – to spread the knowledge about how these legendary Spanish ships for three centuries connected the great continents of the planet.

Ulises Custodio continued: “They could be used as support ships in war efforts. The Spanish crown had the right to call them in to help. She is used for training marines who need to have some sea days.

‘‘They may spend six months with us, some people pay a fee to become part of the crew and learn all about it and there’s a volunteer programme.’’

For more information about this fascinating ship visit: