Juan Cabrillo made history. But can the late explorer make turnstiles spin for a museum that will evoke his past in a pricey way ?
The days ahead will tell.
The Maritime Museum of San Diego is proceeding with plans to build a $5 million replica of San Salvador, the galleon Cabrillo guided to California in 1542 when he became the first European to explore what is today known as San Diego Bay.
The 88-foot wooden ship is meant to help the non-profit corporation to evolve and compete for visitors in one of the country's busiest tourist destinations.
The new San Salvador also will serve as an educational exhibit that will enable the museum to talk about everything from 16th century shipbuilding to cartography.
The museum will dedicate a construction site for the ship this September on public land 1.5 miles from where its main collection of historic vessels are docked on North Harbor Drive. Workers will begin to build the three-masted galleon by the end of the year, says Ray Ashley, the museum's director.
Plans call for the ship, which will occasionally ply local waters, to open as a paid attraction in 2012, when it joins the museum's other ships at the nearby embarcadero.
"It’s our expectation that 200,000 people will get to watch the San Salvador being built during the eighteen months it takes, but who knows, it may be many many more than that," Ashley said.
"But if it really is only that number, it will still serve to double attendance" to the museum.