Part of the construction of the replica San Salvador. Photo credit:

A group constructing a $6.2 million replica of the galleon San Salvador at Spanish Landing Park on Wednesday installed the final wooden plank in the vessel’s hull, a major milestone.

Now that the so-called “whiskey plank” has been put in, the hull can be treated, sealed and painted, and work can begin on the inner fixtures of the full-size replica.

“It’s an occasion for a party when you reach this point. It’s kind of like launching or commissioning or laying a keel,” said Ray Ashley, president of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

“Everyone’s always looking for a reason to mark progress and to celebrate, and so putting the last plank in the bottom of the ship is one of those moments,” he told CBS8.

More than 200 volunteers with the museum have worked on the replica 16th century, 92-foot-long galleon. The construction of the reproduction, which began three years ago, is giving the public a chance to see an example of historic shipbuilding, the first modern industrial activity in the Americas.

The San Salvador was the flagship of explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542 when he sailed into San Diego Bay. Cabrillo, who sailed from Portugal, was the first European to explore the bay – he named the area San Miguel – and the coast of California.

Construction of the replica, which is partly funded by a grant from the Coastal Conservancy, is about 65 percent complete, according to the museum.

Once it’s finished, the full-size galleon will be opened to visitors and for educational programs. Museum officials said it would also sail to ports throughout the state “as a travelling learning platform and symbol of our region’s Pacific origins and maritime heritage.”

– City News Service

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