Sen. Ben Hueso explains the history behind the San Salvador’s upcoming trip to Ensenada. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The replica of Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo‘s historic flagship set sail for Ensenada Saturday in the vessel’s first international voyage.

The Maritime Museum of San Diego’s San Salvador has traveled nearly 3,500 miles, docked at 30 ports and hosted almost 400,000 visitors, but has not been to Mexico, the country from which the original ship departed in 1542 on its historic journey north.

Cabrillo’s fleet of three ships entered San Diego Bay on Sept. 28, 1542. The explorer claimed the region for the king of Spain, establishing a Spanish heritage that predates English settlement of North America by six decades.

The San Salvador docked at the maritime museum prior to leaving.

“The ship represents a shared history because Cabrillo stopped in Ensenda on his way,” said Raymond Ashley, president and CEO of the maritime museum.

The San Salvador will have a crew of 15 volunteers for its 55-mile journey to Mexico, among them state Sen. Ben Hueso, a sailing enthusiast who volunteered to help build the replica.

“I love history. This brings history alive,” said Huseo. “Hopefully it will inspire people to learn more about the history of California.”

At a reception for political and civic leaders prior to the galleon’s departure, Ashley recognized Huseo for his contributions, but added, “He’s going to stand the watch just like everyone else.”

The 200-ton, 100-foot-long replica took four years to build and was completed in 2015 at a cost of $11.5 million. It was built using many 16th century techniques, with modern adaptations. Ashley said the crew wold sail to Ensenda, but probably motor back when it returns on Friday because of adverse winds.

When the San Salvador arrives in Ensenada on Sunday, it will be welcomed in a waterfront celebration, and then be opened to the public.

Andrea Compton, superintendent of the Cabrillo National Monument on Pt. Loma, said park rangers always point out the San Salvador when it’s underway.

“It is a beautiful site when the San Salvador sales across the the harbor. It bridges centuries,” she said.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.