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The Santa Maria should sail into Beaufort soon. Here’s how to watch its arrival

Those planning to watch the arrival of a 90-foot ship into downtown Beaufort this weekend should remain flexible.

The Nao Santa Maria, a model of the ship Christopher Columbus captained in 1492, is expected to arrive with the Sunday evening high tide. The craft will dock at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront sea wall.

Expected arrival was pushed back as the crew sheltered from a storm in Florida. Visitors should be able to tour the ship from April 1-7, pending U.S. Coast Guard inspections.

Tours will run from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. each day.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” said Megan Morris, executive director of the Santa Elena Foundation.

The ship will enter St. Helena Sound before traveling through Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge to the downtown waterfront. Those who want pictures or video can position themselves at Brickyard or Pigeon Point boat landings or near the Woods Bridge, Morris said.

Visitors will access the ship via a ramp from the sea wall to a barge, and then up to the ship’s deck. The Nao Santa Maria is a “floating museum,” Morris said, and visitors will be able to learn about life aboard the ship and talk to the crew about crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

Tickets for self-guided tours can be purchased online at www.naosantamaria.org or on site. The cost is $10 for ages 11 and older, $5 for ages 5 to 10 and $25 for a family of two adults and up to three children.

Santa Maria’s visit coincides with the Santa Elena Foundation’s second annual Shipwrecks Conference held at USC Beaufort on April 5. The event will include historians and archaeologists talking about various aspects of voyages and shipwrecks during the 16th century.

In 2016, the Santa Elena Foundation hosted El Galeon, a model 16th century cargo ship. The ship docked in Port Royal as part of the organization’s event marking the 450th anniversary of the Santa Elena settlement on what is now Parris Island.

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Stephen Fastenau covers northern Beaufort County as a reporter for The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet, where he has worked since 2010 and been recognized with state and national awards. He studied journalism and political science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and lives in Beaufort.
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