An exact replica of the Spanish vessel Victoria, the first ship to sail around the world in the early 16th century, arrived at Zea Marina in the port of Piraeus yesterday morning and will be open to visitors this weekend. Piraeus is its first stop in the Mediterranean as the Victoria sails home to Spain after completing a world voyage that has taken it to Tenerife, Cartagena de Indias in Colombia, Panama, Hawaii, the Mariana Islands, Japan (where it was part of Spain’s participation in the Aichi 2005 World’s Fair), then Hong Kong, Singapore, Colombo, Djibouti, Sudan and Suez. The trip was organized by the Spanish Society for International Exhibitions (SEEI). On board the Victoria, everything is as one might imagine it was in the early days of exploration. Only materials employed 500 years ago were used to build the new Victoria. Darkened timbers creaked eerily as the ship rose and fell on the slight swell at its dock in front of Zea’s busy cafes. An enormous tiller swung gently at the stern. Oranges hung in string baskets in the galley, alongside old barrels and huge wooden spoons. The ship is equipped with 16th century navigational instruments – astrolabe, quadrant, backstaff, lead line – along with state-of-the-art marine electronics. A small engine is used for entering and leaving ports. «We use 16th century navigation tools and well as modern equipment, which the Spanish safety authorities require us to have on board,» said Jose Luis Ugarte, a merchant marine captain and in charge of navigation, told Kathimerini English Edition. «We have been comparing the two systems in order to find out where they made errors in those days.» Ugarte, considered Spain’s premier transoceanic yachtsman, has sailed solo around the world twice and has written several books telling of his experiences as a sailor. He is part of a 20-member crew headed by Ignacio Fernandez Vial, the leading Spanish expert in reconstructing working replicas of historic ships. Vial also directed the Santa Maria and Pinta projects. The rest of the crew include specialists in naval engineering and other fields such as agricultural engineering, natural sciences and physics. During the voyage a number of research projects on technical, nutritional, health and anthropological subjects are being conducted in collaboration with several Spanish universities, to take advantage of the unique experience of a long voyage carried out under 16th century conditions. The design of the replica was based on a lengthy research project using a total of 428 written documents, drawings, and archaeological artifacts along with 164 documents referring to the expedition led by Fernando de Magallanes (Magellan) in 1519-1522, preserved at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, as well as 126 drawings and engravings of 16th and 17th century ships.