Santa Maria replica to visit North Shore

COURTESY PHOTO . Nao Santa Maria will spend nine days docked in Newburyport.

NEWBURYPORT — Christopher Columbus is coming to the North Shore next month and the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport has come up with plenty of events to welcome him.

The Maritime Museum will be bringing the 200-ton Spanish tall ship Nao Santa Maria to the waterfront for nine full days beginning Friday, May 31.

According to Maritime Museum board member Ken Jackman, Nao Santa Maria is a replica of the historic vessel which carried Columbus and his crew to the New World in 1492. The vessel will sail into Newburyport Harbor at 10:30 a.m. on May 31, with a special V.I.P. welcoming ceremony planned for that evening.

"She is coming in on the high tide and should be in downtown Newburyport by (11:30 a.m.) or noon. It takes a little time to get up the river. This is not a speed boat," Jackman said. "This will also be the first time that ship is north of Florida, ever. She was built in Spain in 2017, crossed the Atlantic, basically mimicking Columbus's voyage, coming across from Spain and to the Canary Islands to take on supplies. Then they cross over the Caribbean and the first opportunity for anyone to board this vessel, north of Florida, will be in Newburyport."

Once the big welcome is out of the way, the vessel will be open for public tours, beginning Saturday, June 1, from 9 a.m. to 6 pm.

The public tours will continue for the rest of the week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Local school groups will also be boarding the ship Monday, June 3, through Friday, June 7.

The charge will be $5 per student and will include a guided tour of the ship and full access of the vessel.

 "Everyone learns the story of Christopher Columbus coming to America. It is one of the seminal stories of humanity," Jackman said. "This will give the kids a chance to actually stand onboard the deck and appreciate how big or how small this vessel was, compared to the Atlantic. This will bring history to life in a way that will include all the senses. This is also a Spanish crew, so Spanish classes can also opt to do their tour in Spanish."

Jackman added the Maritime Museum just began inviting schools to visit and has already booked tours for several area districts.

Interested parties can call the Maritime Museum's at 978-462-8681 or send an email to

"Schools will want to reach out to us now because the slots are booking," Jackman said.

Downtown area businesses and restaurants should receive a quick shot in the arm with a special Explore the Port event, Wednesday night.

For $40 admission, visitors will be able to board Nao Santa Maria beginning at 5 p.m., where they will be met, Jackman said, by Christopher Columbus himself.

"Columbus will be giving tours of the ship and talking about his voyage and then he will announce that he has docked in Newburyport and he will let them know which participating restaurants will be featuring tapas plates that evening," Jackman said. "There will be five or six stamps which will be redeemed at these restaurants as a part of the ticket."

The idea behind the Explore the Port event is to share the Maritime Museum's good fortune by generating commerce for downtown restaurants and businesses, according to Jackman.

"We wanted a way to use a tall ship to attract people to Newburyport at a time when it is not busy," Jackman said. "Saturday night will be jam-packed in all the restaurants, we already know that, but Wednesday, not so much. This is also not a fundraiser. At the end of the night, we will collect all of the stamps and pay each of the participating restaurants for what they provide."

Kids' pirate parties will be held on the Sunday mornings of June 2 and 9 and parents may partake in the pirate fun when the Maritime Museum hosts its adult pirate party Saturday, June 8, from 7 to 10 p.m.

"When we did this one (when the tall ship El Galeon docked in Newburyport in 2016) anyone who walked downtown that night might have thought they were at the Pirates of the Caribbean, the costumes were so elaborate," Jackman said.

The tall ship is expected to depart the city June 10 at 5:45 a.m.

"We believe we are going to put on an event that all of Newburyport can really be proud of," Jackman said.

Tickets to all of the public events will go on sale for Custom House members on Friday, May 3, and will be made available to the public at the museum's store and online at on Saturday, May 4.

Jim Sullivan may be contacted at