The magnificient Nao Santa Maria shares Fernandina Marina with boats large and small

The Nao Santa Maria enters the harbor. Photo courtesy of John Royall, Chairman and Co-founder of the St. Mary’s Tall Ship Alliance, Inc.

By Karen Thompson
Features Reporter
June 3, 2021


“In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue” Christopher Columbus, Italian explorer and navigator.
Yesterday, Columbus’ incredible tall ship Nao Santa Maria sailed the ocean blue into Fernandina Harbor Marina led by Kevin McCarthy at the helm of Amelia River Cruise’s Bald Eagle. I was one of the lucky people invited on-board.

It started out as a tiny speck on the horizon as it maneuvered into the Santa Maria River (St. Mary’s River) channel to visit, for the first time, the island of Santa Maria (Amelia Island). Soon the full magnificence of the replica-vessel could be seen behind us.

The Santa Maria is one of the most famous ships in the world and was Columbus’ flagship. On October 12, 1492 Christopher Columbus, became the protagonist of one of the most important milestones in history: The discovery of America.

You can board the floating museum to examine the rich tall ship history from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 4-6. Self-guided tours, over the Santa Maria’s 5 decks, will take you back in time to life in the 15th Centuries’ Age of Discovery. To reserve your place go to [email protected] Cost is $15 for adults, $5 for children under 5, under 5 free, family pack (up to 2 adults and 3 kids) are $35.

Educational panels show the history of the ship and it’s ornamental elements of time. A talk with the crew will let you experience the lives of Spanish sailors 500 years ago.

The Nao Santa Maria visit was organized and hosted by the St. Mary’s Tall Ship Alliance, an all-volunteer non-profit corporation founded in 2016 to share the rich tall ship history of the region with students and the general public. Since its founding, the organization has hosted 5 tall ship visits to the region and 17,500 public deck tours.

The Nao Santa Maria visit is sponsored by the Nao Victoria Foundation, City of Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island Tourist Development Council, Fernandina Marina Advisory Council and Amelia River Cruises.

The Nao Santa Maria docked at the Fernandina Harbor Marina. Photo courtesy of John Royall, Chairman and Co-founder of the St. Mary’s Tall Ship Alliance, Inc.

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