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Attendees enjoy discovering the history behind the San Salvador
Thursday, September 5, 2019

By Chris Frost


Oxnard—It was all aboard at the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, Sept. 1, as a full-scale replica of the San Salvador made its triumphant return to the harbor and delighted everyone who visited.


The San Salvador was the first European ship to explore California's coastline and was the flagship of explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. The ship first reached San Diego in 1542


The San Salvador was a 100-ton La Victoria, and lateen-rigged, 26-oared San Miguel.


The ship was meretriciously rebuilt by the San Diego Maritime Museum by volunteers using drawings of the original ship. Planning for the ship took 20 years, and the San Salvador is on its Pacific Heritage Tour and guests could examine the ship, and sign up for a day at sea.


Curator Heather Behrens said she loves having the ship at the dock and once you get on board, visitors will hear sounds and smell fragrances that are different than what most people are used to.


"On the ship, there is an animal you can hear, and it's interesting what they did with those animals," she said. "Livestock traveled with them on the ship."


The ship also has the history of Explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, how much it cost and why the San Diego Maritime Museum created the replica.


"All those things are important to California's History," Behrens said. "We weren't an island, and we were part of the continent. It was important for them to be explorers and map out a new section of travel."


She loves all the different quarters for the sailors.


"The scribe has a bunk, the soldier has a bunk, and all of the important jobs had a bunk space," she said. "You could see what they wore and the types of things they used where they were on the ship. They also had a long table of food. They had old-world food and new-world food."


Peter Dsimone, an education program manager from the San Diego Maritime Museum, said sailing on the San Salvador is fun, and the first time a Spanish Galleon has been off the coast of California since the 1500s.


"It's a unique experience," he said. "I've sailed on 19th Century vessels like schooners, and it is such a different experience sailing on a square-rigger Spanish Galleon like this."


He considers the helm on the ship to be unique.


"The ship's wheel is what we think of when we think of the helm," he said. "The ship's wheel was a 1700s invention, and it's called a whip staff connected to the rudder, and there is a large stick to move the tiller left and right."



He thinks that living on the boat is relaxing.


"There are calm waters up here in Oxnard," he said. "It's calmer than San Diego, and San Diego is calm. It lulls me to sleep every night."


Ship Mate Alex Saikowski assists the captain after the ship gets out of the dock at sets sail.


"He tells me the orders, and I get the crew in their position and carry out what the captain wishes," he said. 


Alex started volunteering for the San Diego Museum in 2001.


"I love history, ships and being out on the water," he said. "It's my happy place."


Volunteer Patrick Behrens, Heather Behrens husband, always gets volunteered to help at the museum.


"I enjoy it, and it gets me involved with all the activities that take place," he said. "I've been giving history on the boat itself and the number of people who are here. This area is the crow's nest."


He loves San Salvador the most because it brings him back in history.


"This is what they were doing when they were sailing across," he said. "This is a life-sized model we can play with."


Volunteer Linda Knowlton said they want to make sure everyone stays safe.


"The current crew sleeps below, and there is enough crew for 16," she said. "The ship itself is taken out of San Diego about every other week, I'm told."


Volunteer Bill has been drawn to the sea since he was four, so San Salvador was a perfect fit for him.


"I've sailed my sailboat across the Pacific and back," he said. "Any time I get the chance to visit an old boat or a replica of an old boat; it's a reflective decision, and I have to do it."


He called the collection of models and paintings at the museum world-class.


"It is an astonishing treasure that unfortunately underappreciated," he said. 


Trustee Susan O'Brien was showing the kids where they kept the transported horses in a sling below.


"Their legs are so fragile they kept the in a strap, so their feet never touched the ground," she said. "Other than the officers, everyone else slept on a grass mat on the deck."


The galley was a firebox, and it ran 24 hours a day.


"People would come and fix their food," she said.    


Brittni Ruiz and her children Hunter Martinez Kylie Summitt feels the ship is incredible.


"It's a beautiful ship, and we're excited to visit it," Brittni said. "Dad is a firefighter, and he had to work. He couldn't make it today."


Hunter likes Pirates of the Caribbean, and he wore the appropriate hat to match the day.


"He's Captain Jack Sparrow," Brittni said. 


The kids want to check out the museum.


"They wanted to go even before they got on the boat," she said.


The fun isn't over at the Museum, Heather Behrens said, as the next adventure is the Associated Society of Marine Artists (ASMA) which is a juried national art exhibition.


"There are 51 paintings chosen for display and one sculpture," she said. "Those will be available for the public to view Sept. 14 through Dec. 30. We're having an opening evening on Sept. 14 at 5 p.m., and some of the artists will be here. The public can come and view the pieces and talk to the artists; they're welcome to join us." 


The Channel Islands Maritime Museum is located at 3900 Bluefin Cir.

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