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By Jude O. Marfil

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 11) – Not even the strict security at the Port of Saipan’s Able Dock dampened the interest of hundreds of residents who wanted get on board the replica of Nao Victoria, the ship of Portuguese-Spanish navigator Ferdinand Magellan that circumnavigated the world in the 16th century.

The Nao Victoria dropped anchor at 12 noon last Friday for maintenance and respite for her 16-member crew including its captain, 76-year-old Jose Luis Ugarte.

"This is a once in a lifetime experience for this kind of ship to come to Saipan," said NMI Humanities Council Executive Director Paz C. Younis, who waited for the ship’s arrival under the scorching heat of the sun.

The vessel’s arrival was delayed by two hours owing to a heavy rain the night before.

Unlike the modern ships he has handled, the Nao Victoria "is very complicated," according to Ugarte. "This is not an easy boat to sail. This is heavy and cumbersome…the type that is very difficult to learn.

We have learned quite a lot," said Ugarte. "It took us a long time to get here because we just had to go with the wind."

Nao Victoria’s crew is operating the vessel with techniques and instruments used 500 years ago.

Adding to the complications, said Ugarte, was the inclement weather they have had to contend with, beginning Oct. 12 when the ship left Seville, Spain, where she was built.

From Seville, the ship sailed to the Canary Islands, the Caribbean Sea through the Panama Canal before heading to the Pacific Ocean. It docked in Honolulu and then in Majuro in the Marshall Islands before pulling into Saipan’s harbor.

It’s next stop will be Japan.

Saipan residents find the Nao Victoria "remarkable."

"What struck me the most is the size of the ship. She seems very small for the open ocean. It’s remarkable to think that those men were able to traverse such vast stretches of ocean in so small a vessel," said Jim Belyea.

Nao Victoria will be in Tokyo for Expo 2005, and will call at the ports of Osaka, Kobe and Yokohama.

Nao Victoria will return to Spain in spring 2006, after stopping by in Shanghai and other Asian cities.

April 11, 2005

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