Tall ship brings Colombian culture and history to Union Pier

A group of people welcomes Colombia’s tall ship ARC GLORIA, the training ship of the Colombian Navy, as it arrives at Union Pier on Sunday morning.

When Paulo Guillen found out the Colombian Navy training ship he worked on 16 years ago would be in Charleston this weekend, he had to make the trek from Florida.

ARC GLORIA arrived Sunday morning at Union Pier and will be open to the public for tours through Tuesday. Guillen, a Virginia resident who serves in the U.S. Navy and previously served in the Colombian Navy, was visiting friends in the sunshine state and brought them with him aboard the ship.

“It’s been 16 years since I was on this ship, and I remember it like it was yesterday,” he said.

He excitedly showed his friends around and described what it was like to work on deck. He recalled sanding and re-painting the shiny wooden floors and holding on for dear life while working below deck at sea.

“You cannot express everything that happens in here,” he said. “It was great.”

Guillen added that he learned the true value of teamwork while working on the ship. His favorite experience on the ARC GLORIA was at night, when he knew where they were headed based on the starry sky.

“It’s beautiful,” he said.

The tall ship’s visit to Charleston provides an opportunity for the local community to learn more about Colombian culture while welcoming a group of the country’s young cadets on their goodwill training cruise, according to a news release.

“It’s definitely a moving museum and a tribute to Colombia,” said Janice Mertz, of Mount Pleasant.

Her husband, Richard Mertz, saw the ship dock and said it looked like it time-traveled from the past while it was on the water with all of its 23 sails raised. Once aboard, he was intrigued by the mix of wood, brass and metal in the ship’s construction.

“For me it was very interesting,” he said.

The couple both described the ship as majestic and colorful, and they were impressed by the Colombian patriotism aboard.

The ship, which has sailed across the world for 47 years, is commanded by Capt. Mauricio Echandia and manned by a crew of 154. The crew includes cadets who learn and practice coastal, celestial and modern navigation; learn to use communications equipment and maneuver with sails and ropes; and learn general seamanship. They also learn teamwork to get the ship’s sails raised while at sea, the news release states.

Cadets saluted guests as they arrived and showed them around the ship. Residents aboard were in awe of the ship’s beauty.

Colombian Ambassador to the U.S., Juan Carlos Pinzón, said the ship is his country’s ambassador to the world, delivering the pride of their nation and a message of peace and goodwill.

“In that spirit and given the long-standing friendship between our two countries, we are proud to dock ARC GLORIA in Charleston and take part in the celebration of Independence Day in the United States,” he added in an email.

Pinzón will greet the crew aboard ARC GLORIA at 6 p.m. Tuesday. There will be a departure ceremony for the ship at 9 a.m. Wednesday as it leaves for Nova Scotia, Canada.

Reach Melissa Boughton at 843-937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.