The ship glided into Resurrection Bay wreathed in mist, looking much like a sight out of the past. The Cuauhtemoc is painted white, and it would have appeared ghostly in the driving rain and low clouds, except for the lively Mexican music playing as members of the crew, stationed at attention along five tiers of spars, sang songs as the ship approached the harbor.
To says the ship is impressive is an understatement. It’s masts reach over 30 feet. Colorful regatta flags flew from the rigging, as sailors wearing yellow rain gear scrambled down the lines from the spars to help tie up the ship and lay out the gangplank. Seward mayor Jean Bardarson met ship officials at the dock, along with Consul Javier Abud, the Mexican government’s official in Anchorage.
Then the party was welcomed aboard.
It was not a coincidence that the ship arrived on Mexican Independence Day. Captain Juan Carlos Vera- Minjares says it’s been planned for a year.
“It is interesting for us to visit Alaska. So we wanted to bring [a] friendship message to share with the Alaskan people That’s why we come. So we plan to arrive on September 15 to make a celebration with Mexican citizens.”
The Cuauhtemoc, which takes its name from the last Aztec emperor, was built in Bilbao in Spain in 1981, and has been used by the Mexican Navy since 1982 as a training vessel for cadets. The visit to Alaska is part of the ship’s Cruise of Instruction for 2014. Captain Vera says the 1800 ton vessel started it’s voyage in Acapulco, Mexico in April and visited ports in Central America and the Carribean, before returning to the Pacific coast, where it made stops from Peru to Seward. The ship is home to 245 men and women sailors during the training voyage. The naval cadets are in their last year of school, and must serve 4 months aboard the ship before graduation. Captain Vera says the training is crucial.
“They know how to deal with elements at sea, they know how to sail with astronomical navigation, they know how to deal with magnetic compases, so they become a real sailor to command the Navy units.”
The Cuauhtemoc had covered 14 thousand nautical miles before reaching Seward. Captain Vera says it encountered every type of weather, so recent winds and Seward’s drenching rains were no problem. He says the tall ships have value in that their old traditions make true sailors out of cadets.
“They practice on board on keeping contact with the natural elements, for example, the wind, the waves the snow. They embark as teenagers and they come back as real sailors. “
The Cuauhtemoc has traveled the globe, participating in tall ship parades and races as far away as China, Japan and Finland.The ship has won many awards for it’s presentation and speed. Captain Vera says the ship’s travels also serve to bring a bringing a message of peace and Mexican culture around the globe.
This is the second visit by the Cuauhtemoc to Seward in a decade. The ship visited first in 2005. A public reception was held at the Alaska Railroad cruise ship dock in Seward Monday evening. The ship is available for free public tours from 11 to 6 through Thursday. The Cuauhtemoc departs Friday.