Santa Maria
Ocean Navigator|January/February 2020
Reproductions of Santa Maria (foreground) and Victoria, Magellan’s flagship (distance), are operated by the Nao Victoria Foundation in Seville, Spain.
DAVID BERSON

In its day — more than 500 years ago — the nao (ship) Santa Maria embodied a sailing design that was as modern then as the fastest designed sailboats are today. The nao became Christopher Columbus’ flagship and the largest of the three ships used by him during his first westward passage.

Santa Maria had already established a reputation as a successful working vessel in the Baltic before Columbus asked that it be requisitioned by Queen Isabella.

The original owner, Juan de la Cosa, was a well-known and experienced captain and navigator hired to be the captain of Santa Maria on Columbus’ voyage — though, often during the passage and contrary to tradition, Columbus superseded his authority. Ultimately, Santa Maria grounded in Haiti on Christmas Day in 1492 and was dismantled to build La Navidad, which was the first Spanish settlement in the New World.

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