The Tall Ship visit that almost didn’t happen!

Firstly, a sign had gone up on the wall outside the naval base we can see from our apartment in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Didn’t think much of it, there was a name with a couple of dates and some times. Visita Buques?

After a couple of days I decided to translate the sign and discovered that the Juan Sebastian de Elcano (JS Elcano) was on show for 3 days. Quick internet search revealed that the Juan Sebastian de Elcano is the Tall Ship of the Spanish navy. The navy use the ship for training new recruits. Only problem was, it was 4pm on 6th September and the last time to view ended in less than 3 hours! We didn’t know if tickets would be required or if there was even a fee involved – internet did not help!

I decided to walk down and see if I could figure out if we could go see the ship. The naval guard’s English was better than my Spanish obviously! After much terrible conversation and lots of people streaming past me I managed to ascertain that we could visit and no fee was involved. I rushed back excitedly to tell the family. Sadly, this is where it all went badly wrong. Long story short, sudden changes of plans by an excited Mother did not for happy children make! Aspergers and anxiety do not mix well with unexpected routine changes! You would think that I would know better!

bow js elcano tall ship visit

So what happened? Who went?

The eldest two boys weren’t all that bothered about going to see the ship. Not sure why? Apprehension about boats, ladders, crowds, seasickness – pick one! Lily was keen and George wanted to see the ‘big boat’. I wasn’t super keen on taking the two youngest by myself. Plus I was being stubborn wanting it to be a family outing. Especially after my birthday had been a bit of a disaster the previous day – don’t ask! Much arguing ensued and all my negotiation skills were pushed aside due to panic over the limited time left to view. Didn’t even know if we would be viewing from the dock or actually be allowed on board at this stage. The sense of urgency was too much to handle!

Eventually after much negotiation (heated discussion), it was decided that I would go with 3 children and Paul would stay with Tom. Tom has suffered from seasickness in the past and really wasn’t keen on the boat idea at all. We headed out with George in the stroller not sure what to expect. We walked through the naval base gates and joined the line of people waiting at a desk. Fortunately I had my passport with me (Spanish requirement to carry identification) as my name and number were recorded on a sheet with +3 for the children.

wallking towards js elcano tall ship visit

Would we be allowed on?

Really was quite impressive as we got closer to the tall ship. Launched in 1927, JS Elcano is a four-masted topsail, steel hulled schooner. At 113m in length it is the 3rd largest tall ship in the world and has travelled the furthest, covering over 2 million nautical miles. We took a few photos so the rest of this post will share some of these as we explored within the ropes of course!

Tall Ship Visit to the Juan Sebastian de Elcano

Excitement and apprehension grew as we drew closer to the ship and realised people were actually being allowed on board. Relaxed a little when we realised that it was free to get on. The navy recruitment van was parked up by the walkway, just in case anyone was interested in signing on. Some people were leaving their large backpacks and we left the stroller with one of the crew. Walking up the long walkway I had a tight hold of George – it was a long way down to the water! I don’t think I relaxed at all for the next hour! Wondering if George would stress out and run, he has no fear and is very much like Jack was at that age!

wheel js elcano tall ship visit image

We had fun, I took a few photos and Jack kept a close eye on George when I was taking photos. No problem from any of them climbing up and down steep stairs.  Only issue was when we came to disembark there was gap in the hand rail/rope to get on the exit walkway and Jack became very apprehensive. Lily was nervous too, but George was already keen to run off down the ramp and was wriggling and I feared he would slip and tumble through the gap! Two hands is not enough for 3 children!

Jack overcame his fear, I gave him no choice! I was firm in telling him to move right now! Meanwhile, my imagination running through the worst case scenario of a child falling in and wondering who would jump in first, me or a sailor? My fear would be damaging my coccyx again (a tale for another day). We all exited safely. Number one priority for venturing onto boats is to get all four swimming more confidently.

Steep steps and ladders!

We had no trouble clambering up and down the steep steps – virtually ladders. Was amazed at all the people who insisted on going down the steps facing forward wearing high heels! Many visitors seemed unaware that more practical attire may have been a more sensible choice. Everyone knows ladders on naval ships are easier and safer facing in, unless you’re just sliding down the rails of course! I was tempted to slide but was on my best behaviour! Maybe it’s just because my Dad was in the British Royal Navy for over 20 years and we had lots of visits to his ships when we were young that I know not to face forwards? I asked the children to turn around for the photo on the steps coming down! Can you tell the sun was in their eyes? …and George was, well a 3 year old!

steps down js elcano tall ship visit image

Captains in the making?

All of them had fun pretending to be Captain of the pirate ship!

george captain js elcano
jack captain js elcano
lily captain js elcano
spanish leaflet js elcano

How high are those masts?

Not one of our children thought they would be able to climb the rigging. Well actually George probably would have no problem. He is most certainly our most adventurous climber trying to keep up with the other three.

rigging js elcano tall ship visit image

What about Tom?

After I got back and started to show Paul and Tom the photos I sensed that Tom was a little sad. With less than 30 minutes left of visiting time left I asked if he would like to go. Reassuring him that the ship is tied to the dock, not sailing and he would be unlikely to get sick! We rushed to the naval base, not even sure they would let us in. Indeed they stopped people from coming in while were lined up waiting to hand my passport over for inspection. I hoped they wouldn’t notice I was back again!

We had a great time, just the two of us and me not having to worry about George falling overboard while I took photos!

tom js elcano
tom js elcano speaker
tom js elcano engine
tom js elcano harbour
tom js elcano steps

JS Elcano Quick Facts

Cost: 8,189,532,28 pesetas (€49,220)
Launched: 5 March, 1927
Maiden voyage: 19 April, 1928
Homeport: Cadiz, Spain
Displacement: 3673 tons
Length: 113 m (371 ft)
Beam: 13.11 m (43.0 ft)
Height: 48.5 m (159 ft)
Draft: 7 m (23 ft)
Sail plan: four-masted barquentine; 21 sails, total sail area of 2,870 m2 (30,900 sq ft)[3]
Speed: max 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph) engine
17.5 knots (32.4 km/h; 20.1 mph) sail

Crew: 300 sailors, 90 midshipmen
Armament: 2 × 57 mm ceremonial gun mounts

Source: Wikipedia

js elcano tall ship las palmas gran canaria

Image above: kids coming down the walkway off the JS Elcano – long way down!

Picture below: taken as the JS Elcano departed Las Palmas the following day – she was too far out for our zoom lens before the sails went up. I experimented with an atmospheric edit for this effect.

js elcano tall ship las palmas gran canaria

We do hope you enjoyed joining us on our tall ship visit?

Despite the drama getting there it was worth it!

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