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San Salvador Replica Christened Following 4 Years Of Construction

A full-scale replica of the San Salvador is lowered into the water, July 29, 2015.
Christopher Maue
A full-scale replica of the San Salvador is lowered into the water, July 29, 2015.

A full-scale replica of the San Salvador, the ship that Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542, was lowered into the water Wednesday afternoon.

The replica galleon was under construction for four years at Spanish Landing Park, and was moved by barge last week to a Chula Vista shipyard.

RELATED: San Salvador Replica Floats To South Bay Shipyard

Once the ship is in the water, a tug boat will move the San Salvador to a nearby dock, where the sails will be attached and some interior work will be completed.

The San Salvador replica, which will sail along the California coastline as a floating classroom, matches the original in size, weighing 150 tons and measuring 92 feet long by 24 feet wide. It was built by about 500 volunteers associated with the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

The vessel is scheduled to make its public debut at the museum's annual Festival of Sail on Labor Day weekend.

The original San Salvador came to San Diego as the leader of three ships, when Cabrillo was looking for new trade routes from Mexico to Asia and Europe. The galleon was the first recorded European vessel to sail along Southern California and survey its coastline.

Cabrillo, who had settled in Guatemala, called his discovery "a very good enclosed port" and named the area San Miguel, according to the San Diego History Center. The center said Cabrillo visited many of the islands along the coast and may have sailed as far north as Oregon.

While exploring around San Miguel Island — the westernmost of the Channel Islands — Cabrillo suffered a broken leg and died of infection in January 1543.

Bartolome Ferrelo took command of the San Salvador and the other two ships and explored as far north as Cape Mendocino, where they were caught in a storm and turned back. They returned to their point of origin — Manzanillo, Mexico — in April 1543.