In times of freighters and colorful cruise ships, the arrival of a sailing ship to the bay of Havana is not usual. But this Tuesday, Havanans and tourists had the opportunity to witness it.
The Juan Sebastián de Elcano training ship of the Spanish Navy docked this Tuesday morning, April 9, in the port of Havana, just a few meters to the left of the imposing Norwegian Sky at the Sierra Maestra cruise terminal.
As it entered the bay, 90 years after its first visit to the island, the Spanish ship fired artillery salvoes that were reciprocated, as a welcome, by a Cuban battery from the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress.
On its way through the waters of Havana, the four-mast and 113-meter-long brigantine-schooner was escorted from land by onlookers and Spaniards residents on the island to its berth, where officers and troops of the armed forces and the host marina and representatives of the Spanish Embassy in Cuba were waiting for it.
Upon arrival, the commander of the training ship, Captain Ignacio Paz, received on board the Cuban commanders and the Spanish ambassador on the island, Juan Fernández Trigo, and its diplomatic corps, to whom the midshipmen presented a brief exhibition about the masts
Some relatives, friends and couples of the visitors traveled to Cuba to meet them and surprised them when they arrived.
The Juan Sebastián de Elcano ―which honors with its name the famous Spanish navigator who was the first to go around the Earth by sea― arrived in Havana as part of its 91st training cruise, which it carries out from January to July and which has already taken it to other ports such as Veracruz, in Mexico, and Cartagena, in Colombia.
As a curious fact, the ship, which spends three quarters of the time sailing and the rest in the ports it visits, crossed sailing the Atlantic Ocean, from Santa Cruz de Tenerife to San Juan de Puerto Rico, thanks to the good prevailing wind. This is the seventh time that Elcano, with 250 crew members and including engines, has used its sails on its voyages since it became part of the Spanish Navy in 1928.
The trip’s objective, as Paz explained to the press, is the integral training of the midshipmen, not only from the physical and military point of view, but also sociocultural and ethical. For this reason, during their stay in the Cuban capital they will complete a program that includes exchanges with Cuban authorities and sailors, a tribute to national hero José Martí and tours of sites of historical and cultural interest.
The visit is part of the celebrations for the half millennium of Havana and the rapprochement between Cuba and Spain promoted by the current Spanish government, which is expected to lead to the visit of the king and queen of Spain to the island.
“One of the most important milestones of this training cruise is going to be held here in Havana, which is to participate in the activities for the 500 years of the city, which is why we are more than excited that this port is one of our stops,” assured the commander.
On the other hand, the Spanish ambassador in Cuba assured the EFE agency that the Juan Sebastián de Elcano “is more than a training ship.”
“It is an instrument of foreign policy, and we also see it as a way of bringing peoples together, of making the history of the sailors who traveled around the world known and reflecting above all that we were a country of sailors,” he recalled.
Designed by the shipyards Echevarrieta and Larrinaga de Cádiz, the visiting ship will offer open-door days to the public from this Tuesday to Thursday, between 3:00 and 6:00 in the afternoon, and also on Saturday, April 13. Its departure is scheduled for Sunday, heading to the U.S. port of Boston.