Tall Ship Musters Tall Order from the Galley
SPANISH GALLEON PART OF AUGUST’S TALL SHIP FESTIVAL
El Galeón Andalucia is a 170-foot, 495-ton wooden replica of a galleon that was once part of Spain’s West Indies fleet more than 500 years ago. Built in Huelva, Spain in 2009, it is the only galleon-class vessel in the world sailing today. The ship will visit various port cities on the Great Lakes July through September as part of “The Tall Ships Challenge” Great Lakes 2016 race, with Green Bay being the only Wisconsin port honored to host a visit.
Even in modern times, feeding a crew of an international tall ship as it ventures from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean to North America is an enormous task when one considers the nutritional needs of a 22-person crew sailing on the open sea for 27 consecutive days. While the ship is underway, the round-the-clock schedule can be long and exhausting, filled with the physical labor of hoisting massive sails, moving equipment, and managing the demands of the voyage. Food preservation, quality nutrition and sustainability of energy levels become critical.
Planning for the crew’s needs aboard El Galeón while sailing multi-day trips or when navigating through the St. Lawrence Seaway to visit nine Great Lakes port cities in the United States and Canada this summer is the primary job of Fernando Viota, the ship’s project manager. He and 90 percent of the crew are from Spain.
“We love paella, which is rice with some seafood, and Spanish omelets which is eggs with potato,” Viota said. However, these dishes are not often served because of the time it takes to prepare and because it is sometimes difficult to find fresh fish and seafood.
The Spanish paella is named after the shallow pan in which it is typically prepared (in a paellera) over an open fire or grill. Rice is the primary ingredient with herbs like saffron, paprika, onions and garlic complementing a variety of versions including vegetarian paellas, meat paellas or the Paella de Marisco (seafood paella). There are hundreds of different recipes for this well-known traditional Spanish dish depending on the region of Spain it originates.
Aboard El Galeón, meals usually include a base of rice or pasta and legumes, the staples of many Spanish meals. Easily stored and preserved when high temperatures and humidity hasten spoilage, these items can be served with fresh fish, meat, cheese and vegetables or salad when available. However, even with contemporary cooking facilities on board, both refrigeration and freezer capacity is limited to a size for a family of five, so meal planning is important. Menus are adapted to where the ship is and incorporate the ingredients that are available. The ship currently has a cook on board who plans meals, does the shopping, looks after the kitchen, as well as cooks for a crew that ranges in number from 18 to 22.
Of course, this was a far cry from 500 years ago when such galleons carried as many as 200 people (80 crew and 120 soldiers). The crew’s daily rations included wheat biscuit, a soupy mixture of beans, lentils and rice called menestra along with a litre of wine per man. According to the online encyclopedia Q-Files, boiled salted beef and sardines might be added on alternate days or, when it was unsafe to light the galley fires in rough seas, cheese. Garlic, olives and onions provided vitamins and so helped make the diet healthier on a Spanish ship than that of sailors manning northern European ships, which lacked fresh fruit and vegetables.
However, life on a tall ship remains a unique adventure today for volunteer and student crew members who share a passion for sailing. For many, the ship offers six months of hands-on experience and a way to complete their studies and licensing requirements that includes time spent sailing. In addition to getting ready for their many port visits, the crew must share in the work duties of cleaning, ship maintenance and some food preparation. In exchange, food and accommodations are provided, along with coupons for restaurants and free admission to attractions when visiting cities.
According to Viota, prior to coming to America in 2013, El Galeón sailed to and spent time in China, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and the Sudan. During the past three years, the vessel has journeyed around the Caribbean and has been primarily on the East Coast with a home American port at St. Augustine in Florida.
“Sometimes the crew wants to go out and get lost in the different cities,” Viota said. “Particularly for me, I love to find the typical food of the area and taste the typical plates.”
“Magical,” “captivating,” and “educational” are words often used to describe these floating museums. Most ships offer daily tours while docked, providing individuals and families with an opportunity not only to step back in time, but to walk the decks of an authentic-sized structure and talk with the crew about 16th century European sailing and technology, as well as living aboard a tall ship. As project manager for the ship, Viota is also involved with all ship logistics, promotions, and guest services while the ship is visiting different ports. It is here where there is an exchange of history, culture and understanding of life aboard a tall ship. “It is a unique experience,” said Viota. “When you step on board the ship, it’s like traveling back 500 years in time to experience for yourself what it was like.”
El Galeón is one of nine tall ships planning to muster off the shores of Algoma on August 3 before partaking in a Sturgeon Bay Parade of Sail and docking overnight. From there, the ships will sail to the Port of Green Bay as part of the Tall Ship Festival presented by Nicolet Bank at Leicht Park from August 5-7. For complete details go to www.tallshipgreenbay.com. Tall Ships America organizes the race, with Erie Insurance as the Official Race Sponsor.