Spanish Galleon to Visit Morro Bay

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

August 11, 2023

The San Salvador makes her way past the power plant intake building and the ‘Welcome to Morro Bay’ sign in 2016.

The namesake of the first Spanish Galleon to ever sail the West Coast of North America will return to Morro Bay for an extended stopover on its grand tour of the West Coast.

The San Salvador, a replica of the original tall ship that carried Spanish Conquistador, Juan Cabrillo, on an expedition of discovery in 1542-43, will be in Morro Bay from Friday, Aug. 11 to Sunday, Aug. 20.

San Salvador is owned by the Maritime Museum of San Diego, and her Morro Bay visit is hosted by the Morro Bay Maritime Museum. 

She will be moored at the South T-Pier and open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for dockside tours. 

Dockside tours are $12 for adults 18-over; $10 for seniors 65-over; $10 for active military; $8 for kids 4-17; and free for kids 3-under. 

Get advanced tickets online at: to reserve your tour spot.

The San Salvador emerges from a fogbank in her 2016 arrival in
Morro Bay.

The living history exhibit harkens back to the days of the European exploration of the New World. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo was an Iberian maritime explorer who led the first naval expedition of Europeans into San Diego Bay and up the West Coast on behalf of the Spanish Empire. He was the first European to explore this coast, navigating along the Coast of California in 1542–1543 on a voyage from New Spain (Mexico).

The San Salvador arrived at the port now called San Diego on Sept. 28, 1542, then sailed north in search of new trade routes that would link Mexico to Asia and Europe. She was the first recorded European vessel to sail along Southern California, and survey its coastline. 

The Maritime Museum of San Diego built this new San Salvador piecing together plans from specs used on similar ships by the Spanish and Portuguese, as no blueprints for the original San Salvador have been found. She was completed and added to the MMSD’s fleet in 2015. This will be her second visit to Morro Bay. 

San Salvador first came to Morro Bay in September 2016 and was greeted by a flotilla of small craft — kayaks, paddle boards and even some Salinans paddling reed canoes. The Harbor Patrol gave her a water canon salute as she slowly sailed into a foggy harbor.

The belief is that this San Salvador is a highly accurate representation of the vessel that arrived at San Diego in 1542, according to the San Diego museum. To execute the vision, the Maritime Museum engaged a group of skilled professional boat builders, who are assisted by scores of regular volunteers.

Home-ported in San Diego, San Salvador sails the Coast of California on the “Pacific Heritage Tour” visiting cities and towns as a floating education platform for all who visit her. 

On the tour you’ll get a taste of just how harsh life at sea in a Spanish Galleon was for what have to be considered extremely brave men sailing into uncharted waters.

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