Subscribe Now

The steeple-dotted Newburyport skyline will get a remarkable addition over Memorial Day weekend, as the Spanish tall ship El Galeón sails into the mouth of the Merrimac River and docks for five days of parties and tours on the Port City waterfront.

The ship is so tall that there is a good chance that observers will be able to see its  masts dancing above Plum Island as it arrives with high tide Wednesday afternoon, May 25, says Michael Mroz, executive director of the Custom House Maritime Museum, which is sponsoring the visit in conjunction with Newburyport Maritime Days.

“We are fully expecting it to come in under full sail,” weather permitting, of course, Mroz says. The unique construction of the ship, a replica of a 15th to 17th century Spanish Armada vessel built to withstand ocean crossing, means it sits very high in the water, making for an awesome sight and recalling Newburyport’s history as a busy commercial port.

“It’s something you experience in your bones,” Mroz says of the striking ship.

At 170-feet long and six stories high –five of which will be available to tour–the boat is unique both for its historic and cultural significance. Thursday, May 26 and Friday, May 27th, first preference is being given to local school groups, including advanced Spanish language classes who will enjoy the opportunity to chat with the crew of 20 or so, who all hail from Spain. The ship is helmed by Capt. Rosario Fernandez Rodriguez – currently the only female captain of a tall ship.

“The cultural aspect of this ship coming into Newburyport is something we really want to harness and display,”Mroz says, adding he hopes to be able to share with Capt. Rodriguez the Port City’s long history of seafaring women.

A fun roster of activities is planned aboard the ship, kicking off Friday night with a pirate party for adults ($100 per person)– creative dress encouraged with ample Privateer Rum cocktails, Newburyport Brewing Co. beer, and music provided by popular local party band Calypso Hurricane. Other highlights include a daily breakfast on a Tall Ship ($20 per person) catered by Abraham’s Bagels, and a Memorial Day Pirate Party for kids ($20 per person) complete with goody bags provided by Newburyport Marinas.

While El Galeón has never visited Newburyport, in 2012, tall ship the HMS Bounty called at the Port City, attracting around 10,000 visitors. If the weather is beautiful, Mroz expects El Galeon will draw about the same – meaning that visitors and residents alike should be prepared for some parking challenges. Mroz notes that the museum is working proactively with local businesses to use some remote parking lots and offer shuttle service to the waterfront. Keep an eye on the Maritime Museum web site for updates. In conjunction with the ship’s visit, the museum will be hosting The Newburyport Collection, a fair showcasing local businesses with unique products, from food to crafts and jewelry. 

General public tours of the ship will be available daily from 10 am to 6 pm ($10 adults, $5 kids 12 and under) Thursday through Sunday, and until 5 pm on Monday, after which the ship sails off toward the St. Lawrence Seaway, with plans to participate in the Great Lakes Tall Ship Challenge.

For details or to buy tickets, visit