Ángel Rodríguez Alvariño is the skipper of the replica of the Andalucía galleon. The original was a legendary ship with the Spanish Armada, and the replica is currently in Palma.
He describes the experience of skippering the ship as an honour. "It's not comparable with any other type of ship. The construction, which retains the lines of the old galleons, gives the chance to sail in the way that it was some 400 years ago. It's a challenge for any ship's captain, because of the sails."
Ángel has experience of other replica ships, such as the Nao Victoria, Juan Sebastian Elcano's ship which made the first circumnavigation. With the Andalucía, he was enlisted last November, and its itinerary is such that he is able to spend a number of days in ports.
Learning to sail a ship like the Andalucía requires time on board and gaining experience through the Nao Victoria Foundation. "At the foundation, everyone starts as a volunteer and then acquires experience. The sailing is very different to modern boats." There are volunteers on board the Andalucía as well as professionals with merchant navy qualifications. "Life on board is like any other boat, but the group is larger. There are 22 crew, so there are times when getting on with each other can get a touch difficult."
The Andalucía has been to China and back and along the eastern coasts of Canada and the US and into the Caribbean. Ángel says that they'll now be spending three years journeying in Spain and northern Europe.
The ship isn't completely like the original, and this is because it has to comply with current-day regulations. It is therefore kitted out with very high frequency radio, radar, life rafts and automatic pilot. The public's reaction to the Andalucía is often one of surprise at its size, all the rigging and the complications with manoeuvring.
He describes the ship as an ambassador for Spain. "It is really a museum and a floating school. It is something very necessary in order to transmit the history of our country, which has so often been mistreated."
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