The mainsails have been hoisted on El Galeón for its historic Viva Florida 500 Voyage simulating Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León’s arrival 500 years ago. Ponce de León sailed from Puerto Rico, where he was Governor, in search of an Island of riches and perhaps the fountain of youth. He spotted land April 3, 1513 and promptly named it La Florida. His arrival marked the beginning of a European presence in what is now the U. S. mainland, and Ponce de Leon is also credited with discovering the Gulf Stream which led to development of the early trade routes between Spain and the America’s that brought galleons filled with treasures perilously close to Florida’s shores. El Galeón is a 170 foot, 495 ton, authentic wooden replica of a galleon that was part of Spain’s West Indies fleet. El Galeón departed from Puerto Rico en route to Florida where the Viva Florida 500 Voyage will include calls on ports in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Cape Canaveral and St. Augustine that began on April 15 and culminates June 3, as part of the state’s Quincentenary commemorations. The ship’s decks will be open to public visits with free tours in Fort Lauderdale, during her stay at Bahia Mar Marina. Visitors will have the chance to learn about the history that began 500 years ago while admiring the craftsmanship and grandeur of these galleons that reached Florida’s coast centuries ago. The ship tours will be available every day from 9am to 5pm May 14-19, 2013. Free tickets can be obtained online at www.sunny.org/vivaflorida or by visiting the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. The galleon will cover more than 900 nautical miles, with 28 crewmembers on board maneuvering more than 9,600 square feet of sail area, the same way it was conducted in the 16th century. The ship is owned by the Nao Victoria Foundation of Sevilla, Spain. Schedule in Florida: Thru June 3 Miami: Thru April 28 ($15 adults, $8 children) Cape Canaveral: May 1-12 ($15 adults, $11 children) Fort Lauderdale: May 14-19 FREE TOURS courtesy of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Broward County Commission Docked at Bahia Mar Marina St. Augustine: May 23-June 3 ($15 adults, $8 children) For free Fort Lauderdale tickets and more information visit www.sunny.org/vivaflorida or call 954-765-4466.