After a four-year construction project, the replica ship San Salvador hit water on Wednesday afternoon.
The ship, a replica of Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s 1542 flagship, was christened and launched from Bayside Park in Chula Vista to cheers and the crack of a champagne bottle.
The San Salvador will make its public debut Labor Day weekend at the Port of San Diego’s Festival of Sail.
The ship was built in a parking lot and has been easily viewable to wandering tourists for years. It was moved to the South Bay last week.
Built by the San Diego Maritime Museum and an army of volunteers, the San Salvador will be a floating classroom of history. It will host tens of thousands of young students each year, and the educational components of the museum will focus on engaging students in the cultural, political and economic underpinnings of Cabrillo’s era of exploration.
Within the first five to 10 years of her life at sea, the San Salvador will travel to various ports up the California coast such as Oceanside, Monterey, Morro Bay and Sacramento to bring this unique classroom experience to other cities.
Before that happens, the ship will remain docked in the San Diego Harbor for several months before visiting those ports.
The history behind the ship goes like this: Cabrillo was the first European explorer to make contact with the West Coast of North America and to establish a relationship with the indigenous populations. Just like the Mayflower is a symbol for early colonial development on the East Coast, so the San Salvador is for the West.