The Juan Sebastian de Elcano is a tall, four-masted, fully-rigged, steel-hulled barquentine ship used by the Royal Spanish Navy to train her naval cadets. She was built at the Echevarrieta y Larrinaga shipyard in Cadiz, Spain and launched in 1927. Arguably a type of schooner, she was named for Spanish explorer Juan Sebastian Elcano who was the fleet captain of Ferdinand Magellan's last voyage that circumnavigated the globe in 1522. In 1954, her sister ship - the Esmeralda - was built using the same design plans for the Chilean Navy and is also used as a training vessel for naval cadets.
Spain has two naval academies with The Spanish Royal Academy of Naval Engineers being one of the oldest military schools in the world, founded in 1772 at Ferrol, Spain. The school's purpose was to train naval engineers to counter the British and French academies of the day. The second school became the Naval Military School at Marin, Spain where her current naval officers are trained. The Naval Military School trains the cadets during a five-year program. The first, second and part of the third year of the curriculum are dedicated to classroom instruction. During the third year, the entire class is assigned to the Juan Sebastian de Elcano for an eight-month cruse with a crew of seasoned seamen and Spanish Naval Officers to learn the art of seamanship on one of the world's largest tall ships. The last two years are split between the classroom and serving on modern steel ships of the Spanish Navy.
Juan Sebastian de Elcano lines are long and clean, her hull being 370 feet (113 m) in length and having a beam of 43ft 9in (13.11m). Sailing ships are different than their motorized counterparts and her draft is slightly deeper astern than at her bow - 21ft, 5in (6.570m) astern and 21ft 4in (6.524m) at her bow. Her steel hull and turbocharged diesel engine with single shaft can make 2,000 horsepower - this arrangement making her heavier than pure wooden sailing ships of the same size. She displaces at 2,983 tons standard and makes 3,670 tons when heavy. Her four sail masts are named for former naval vessels - White, Almansa, Asturias and Nautilus. Cadets are assigned to maintain one of the masts and furl and unfurl its sails as required.
When fully-rigged and under sail, the sail area is a massive 30,892 square feet and powers the ship to a surface speed of 17.5kts (32.4km/h). The turbocharged diesel engine can make a maximum of 13kts (32.0km/h). With appropriate supplies, the Juan Sebastian Elcano has a range of 10,500 nautical miles (19,448km) at 6kts. To work the ship, the standard crew is 300 officers and sailors and, during the training cycle, she can accommodate 90 midshipmen from the naval academy.
The cadet's volunteer to go aloft and climb the rope ladders on the sides of the ship connected to the masts called the ratlines. The climb is difficult as her masts are 159 feet high (48.5 m) - almost as high as a 16-story building. Once to their assigned sail, the work begins. The highest sail is the topgallant on the mast. Once aloft the men are positioned on the ends of the yard called the yard arm, the wood support on the top of the sail. The order to unfurl the sail is "Let Fall" and, when it is given, the men loose the sail at the yard ends and only then the bunt or center section of the sail is set loose. The bunt is not set loose first due to the rapid filling of the sail by the wind that can knock men off their perch on the yard and fall to a probable death. This is part of the training by the sailors to the cadets assigned to the ship to earn that desired rating of seamen.
As most ships her age, the Juan Sebastian Elcano has undergone major updates and refits during her long service life. A refrigerating plant was added and upgrades to the living quarters and interior rooms have since been made. The installation of air conditioning in all spaces became an obvious crew favorite. She needed a new small water treatment plant to convert seawater to fresh water. Additionally, an upgraded human sewage waste treatment plant, a Sperry gyro-compass and generator were needed within time.
Juan Sebastian de Elcano completed her sea trials in 1928 and, upon completion, she started her service, being sent on her first training mission while circumnavigating the globe as Captain de Elcanto did for Magellan in 1522. The voyage took 10 months and the new ship visited 20 ports to show off the third largest tall ship in the world. Since then, she has continued to sail the globe and show the flag of Spain. She is also used to visit countries during cultural events as she did during Fleet Week 2012 in New York City and Opsail 2012 to participate in the Bi-Centennial of the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain. The Juan Sebastian de Elcano has logged more than 1,500,000 nautical miles to ports around the world.