TAMPA — Craning his head back, Ben Krzykowski’s eyes followed the mast of the replica Nao Victoria all the way up.
Not breaking his gaze, the U.S. Navy veteran spotted the crow’s nest and smirked.
“I just wish I could climb up to the crow’s nest,” he said, laughing afterward.
The Nao Victoria was the first ship to circumnavigate the earth’s waterways, on an expedition that lasted from 1519 to 1522. The replica, given the same name, docked at the Tampa Convention Center on Wednesday and will conduct daily tours through Sunday.
“It’s kind of neat that this thing sailed around the world. I was in an aircraft carrier in the Navy, and I know how that bounced around,” Krzykowski, 66, said Sunday afternoon. “So I can imagine how this goes through the water, especially if you hit some rough seas.”
Ferdinand Magellan of Portugal was tasked by the Spanish Crown to put together a fleet of five ships to find a western route to the Spice Islands. The five ships, which carried a total of 243 sailors, left Seville, Spain on Aug. 10, 1519.
During the voyage, the Nao Santiago ran aground in an Argentinean river; the Nao San Antonio abandoned the mission, returning to Seville 15 months later; the Nao Concepcion was burned in the Philippines to protect the ship’s technological secrets and because there weren’t enough crew members to sail it; and the Nao Trinidad sunk in the Moluccas Islands, now known as Indonesia.
Magellan’s voyage abruptly ended when he was killed in the Philippines on April 16, 1521.
Carrying just 18 men, including Capt. Juan Sebastian Elcano, the Nao Victoria — after 32,000 miles and three oceans — returned to Seville on Sept. 8, 1522.
“They finally got to the Spice Islands in Southeast Asia and they didn’t know it, but they kept sailing west and they made it back to Spain,” said Ulises Custodio, head of logistics for the Nao Victoria. “It was the first confirmation ever that the world was round. They guessed it, and they already kind of knew it was round, but no one had confirmed it. No one had gone all the way around (the earth). This was the first time.”
The ship was recreated after 10 years of research. Blueprints were found and various accounts of the ship were morphed into the replica, which was completed in 1992. Nao Victoria served as a landlocked exhibit at the Seville World Expo for several years, but the designer felt it would be better served on the ocean.
After being made seaworthy, a crew recreated the ship’s original voyage around the world from 2004 to 2006.
Jared DeWitt of Venice started his sailing days 30 years ago while at Whiskey Lake in Redding, Calif. He just happened to help a man raise a mast on his sailboat and was given a 45-minute ride on the boat. He bought a 16-foot sailboat of his own that night and has been hooked since.
Sunday, he and his sister and brother-in-law rode small dinghies from Davis Islands to the convention center to explore the Nao Victoria.
“I’ve always found this era just to be fascinating,” DeWitt said. “The thought of them taking off and even doing something like that is mind-boggling.
“Today, I can tell you within 3 feet of where I am in the world with our technology. They had nothing. It was a true feat of celestial navigation.”
Tours will held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Sunday at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S. Franklin St.