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Mississippi River stirring up trouble for replica of Christopher Columbus' ship

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BATON ROUGE – It's been a troublesome trip for the replica of the Nao Santa Maria. The touring ship arrived days late in Baton Rouge due to the Mississippi River’s rough conditions. Now, it can't leave on time.

Crews spent Tuesday night packing up after a week-long visit, but they'll have to wait for the morning to sail on. The water levels in the river are high, and the current is strong.

“It’s a challenge,” said Miguel Talegon, the boatswain on deck. “This is the first big river that we have done and the current is something to be watching all the time.”

Dense fog pushed back the arrival of the Nao Santa Maria. It was originally supposed to arrive on Sunday, Feb. 24. Instead, it arrived on Wednesday, Feb. 27., opening the following day. Tug boats had to help pull the ship to the dock, alongside the USS Kidd, because of the river conditions.

“Against the current we were going three knots. It was going to take us forever,” said Talegon.

Tuesday night there were new hurdles. To leave, the sailing ship has to go against the current briefly to turn around and head south. There is barge traffic downstream to navigate through, and combined with a speedy current crews decided it was too risky at night.

“Going down the river obviously we are going to go faster, however we have to keep safety speed,” said Talegon. “We'll have to steer the ship by hand and check all the time.”

This is the first time the Nao Santa Maria replica has stopped in Baton Rouge. It was built nearly a year ago. Talegon says this trip will be memorable.

“The river was kind of tricky, but it was very exciting. All of the support from the tug boats and the people here, of course, visiting the ship. It was worth it.”

The ship started in Fort Meyers. It will go on to Panama City next heading south. Talegon says it will take a full day to travel down the Mississippi River. They plan to leave around 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. Wednesday.

The Santa Maria is one of the most famous ships in history and the largest ship in Columbus’ fleet that lead to the discovery of America.


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