Search: Advanced | Preference
Traveling Boy means the travel adventures of the Traveiling Boitanos
Travel adventures of Eric Anderson Boitano
Travel adventures of John Clayton
Travel adventures of Deb Roskamp
Travel adventures of Fyllis Hockman
Travel adventures of Brom Wikstrom
Travel adventures of Jim Friend
Travel adventures of Timothy Mattox
Travel adventures of Corinna Lothar
Travel adventures of Roger Fallihee
Travel adventures of Tamara Lelie
Travel adventures of Beverly Cohn
Travel adventures of Raoul Pascual
Travel adventures of Ringo Boitano
Travel adventures of Herb Chase
Travel adventures of Terry Cassel
Travel adventures of Dette Pascual
Travel adventures of Gary Singh
Travel adventures of John Blanchette
Travel adventures of Tom Weber
Travel adventures of James Thomas
Travel adventures of Richard Carroll
Travel adventures of Richard Frisbie
Travel adventures of Masada Siegel
Travel adventures of Greg Aragon
Travel adventures of Skip Kaltenheuser
Travel adventures of Ruth J. Katz
Travel adventures of Traveling Boy's guest contributors

Colorado ad

About Richard   write me    Feeds provide updated website content        

Basque Shipbuilding
San Sebastian's harbor and beaches, Spain
San Sebastian's harbor and beaches

Basques Build the Replica 16th Century Whale Ship SAN JUAN
How Basque Shipbuilding Changed My Understanding
Of the History of the Americas

Story and photographs by Richard Frisbie

was in San Sebastian, Spain, in May to help celebrate its being named the 2016 European Capital of Culture. I ate, very very well, as San Sebastian's restaurants have the highest concentration of Michelin stars in the world, drank the excellent local wine, visited many museums and enjoyed walking the charming old city as the festivities occurred.

museum director with a model of SAN JUAN
Museum director with a model of SAN JUAN

But I have to admit that the strangest thing was to travel to the Basque region of Spain to learn the truth about North America's early exploration, stranger still to explore where it all began: Albaola, the Sea Factory of the Basques, located at the entrance of the Bay of Pasaia, in San Sebastian. That is where they are building the replica of one of its most famous of Basque ships, the 16th century whale ship SAN JUAN.

When the British arrived in Newfoundland in 1610 they found ships of many nationalities anchored in the harbor, attracted there by the abundance of cod and whales. Nevertheless they had the hubris to claim the land for Great Britain. At that time all the fishermen in Newfoundland knew that only the Basques understood how to hunt the many whales congregating in these waters. Using ships built in San Sebastian, Spain, where the museum Albaola is located now, the Basque people explored the world, most notably the Outer Banks of the United States and the Canadian Maritimes. They brought home many barrels of whale oil and so much salted cod (the cod was salted and dried to preserve it for the long voyage) that Spain is still known for its cod dishes.

replica of the Basque ship San Juan under construction
The ribs and planks shape the outline of the replica SAN JUAN

The Basque fishermen were well-known to the Native Americans of both countries, so much so that Basque was the lingua franca of the New World. So much trading and interacting occurred between them in Basque that fishermen of other nationalities learned enough Basque to communicate, too. In fact, Basque fishermen were fishing in American waters when Christopher Columbus "discovered" America.

museum drawing of the oak harvesting and shaping
Drawing of the oak harvesting and shaping

In the converted ship factory Albaola, now a museum, the largest sailing ships of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries were built. Using wood from a nearby oak forest, first just harvesting it, but later shaping the trees as they grew to provide the correct angles and curves, centuries of Basques earned a reputation as the best ship builders. The other Basque product, the widely drunk hard apple cider, was how the sailors avoided scurvy in their travels to and from distant fishing and trading grounds.

volunteers building a replica of the whale ship San Juan at the Albaola museum
The tedious and exacting hand work of ancient shipbuilding

In the 16th century the Basque whale ship SAN JUAN sank in Newfoundland. Its recent discovery, perfectly preserved in the frigid waters, gave archeologists the best look at the complex construction techniques and materials used by the early Basque shipbuilders. Beneath the hull they also found a complete whaling boat. Drawings and photos, along with exact measurements, are being used at Albaola to build a replica of each. The large open-room of the museum is a ship building showcase where volunteers use ancient hand tools to measure, cut and shape the oak ribs and planking for the replica.

By coincidence, I visited the museum on the 115th anniversary of the killing of the last whale by the Basques (the skeleton hangs in the nearby Aquarium) lending this visit more significance. I was one of nearly 100,000 visitors expected this year, all of whom will see the replica SAN JUAN being built, rib by rib and plank by plank, as ships were hand-built there for centuries. Many will learn a greater awareness of the Basque influence on the history of the Americas. I know I did.

For more information on this and other attractions of San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque) during the European Capital of Culture year, please visit this website.

Related Articles:
A Food & Wine Tour of Alcala; Valencia, Spain is Burning Hot; The Land of Caballeros; Spain, Portugal, Morocco with Insight Vacations; Can't We All Just Get Along In Córdoba?

Name: Required
E-mail: Required
City: Required

Let Richard know what you think about his traveling adventure.

* * * * *

Hey Richard - another winning series of words, all put together in your usual brilliant, and very creative format. And hey, love those glorious photos - Wow, what scenery - looks like some sort of paradise. What a super life you lead!!!

--- John Clayton, Palos Verdes CA

* * * *

I want to go there!!!!!!! Mmmmm! Yes! Love the photos and your article, Richard! Have read the book, seen the play several times and now dream of seeing these historic places. I've been wanting to go to Spain for some time. Now at 12:30 a.m. I'm heading off to bed with songs from Man of La Mancha ringing in my mind. Thanks!

--- Betsy Tuel, Rosendale, NY

* * * *

You are fortunate to have Richard on your staff. Richard is a fantastic writer and a wonderful person. Congratulations to Richard and to you.

--- Denise Dubé, New England

Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Three Musical Pilgrimages: Mozart, Grieg and Hendrix

Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

Go There

Greg Aragon's travel blog/review
Relaxing at The Inn at Laguna Beach

Greg at Huntington Beach

There is nothing like sleeping in an ocean-front room and awakening to the sounds of waves crashing against the sand. It is one of the finer things in life. And it is exactly what I experienced recently on a memorable getaway to The Inn at Laguna Beach. The adventure began when a friend I pulled off the 5 Freeway in Orange County and took SR 133 south nine miles through winding lush hills and wilderness areas to the ocean.

Go There

John Clayton's travel blog/review
Two "MUST SEE" Truly Spectacular Places in Europe. Here's Why.

Culzean Castle, Scotland
The Han Grotto and Culzean Castle. As the name of my Traveling Boy feature is "Travel With a Difference," it's important to me to always bring you offbeat and unusual tourist places around the world you may not know about. These two fit that category to a T, and they're absolutely worth a visit. One's in Scotland and one's in Belgium. Culzean (pronounced CULLANE) Castle is located near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.

go there

Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's Gold Country

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

go there

Eric Anderson's travel blog/review
Lake Charles’ Family-Size Low-Key Mardi Gras

dressed-up for the Mardi Gras
The Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras in Lake Charles, the second largest in Louisiana, does not need parents there to avert their children’s eyes. This is family entertainment and children are very much part of it. The main office of the Lake Charles CVB has costumes from last year’s Mardi Gras but it also has figures to fascinate little ones from country boys fishing for their dinner to alligators who have already fed and are rubbing their stomachs.

go there

Fyllis Hockman's travel blog/review
Puerto Vallarta: Magic and Mayhem on the Malecon

Cedar Hill, Washington DC
So I heard that you could spend from dawn to dusk on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and never get bored and I thought, "Okay, I'm up for that challenge." Well, maybe not the dawn part – I'm not a morning person – so I had no problem leaving those early hours to the joggers and those seeking an early start to catch their red snapper for dinner.

Go There

Richard Carroll's travel blog/review
Costa Rica's Green

Costa Rican volcano

Sitting at an umbrella table in downtown San Jose overlooking the Plaza de la Cultura is like a page out of Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." The plaza is laid out in a maze of stalls where passive vendors sell sparkling silver jewelry by the trayfull, hand-carved clay masks, colorful Guatemalan belts, area rugs, and hammocks perfect for a midday siesta. Three men play an old wood marimba over the buzz of the crowd while a steaming plate of Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) is served to an elegant lady who was performing with her guitar...

go there

Deb Roskamp's travel photo blog
Tahiti and Her Islands


Just their names (pronounce each vowel!) conjure up romantic images: Tahiti Nui, Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Ra'iatea, Taha'a. Her people are gentle; the air, tiare-perfumed. Warm lagoons, majestic peaks, tropical fruits from the land and bounty from the sea all tantalize the senses. Paradise! As near as can be found on planet earth. And, in my experience, the finest way to explore her is on a ship designed for that single purpose.

go there

Jim Friend's travel blog/review
Japan: Bullet Trains, Monkey Shows and Whale Steaks

Nikko Temple gate
Last month, I went to Japan for three things... Ok, let me back up a little bit already. The #1 reason I went to Japan was to visit my girlfriend, Yuki, and she will kill me if I don't say that, so there it is. Hi Yuki! Anyway, so after that, reasons number 2, 3, and 4 were the following: I wanted to ride a bullet train, go to a monkey show, and eat a whale steak. That's right. That's right.

go there

Bev Cohn's travel blog
Tim Robbins On His Road To Stardom

Tim Robbins

Award-winning Tim Robbins began his career on episodic television. Robbins' film work, however, is what catapulted him into becoming a major movie star including "Bull Durham" and "Mystic River" for which he won multiple awards. Equally at home behind the camera, he directed the riveting "Dead Man Walking." He is Founder and Artistic Director of The Actors' Gang, which he formed thirty-five years ago and has directed multiple provocative productions.

Go There

Tim Mattox's travel article
John January and Linda Berry Have Chemistry

Nemeth and Deanna Bogart performing at Rosarito Beach, Baja, Mexico

Chemistry by its very definition is the spontaneous reaction of two people to each other, especially that sense of mutual attraction and understanding. This month John January and Linda Berry release their new project, Chemistry 101 and together they explore a range and depth of musical styles on both organic and physical levels. As a joint labor of love, January says Chemistry 101 is pretty straight-forward.

Go There

Corinna Lothar's travel blog/review
NOLA: New Orleans, Louisiana

19th century building, Stuttgart, Germany
Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, the Garden District, the streetcar (now a bus) to Desire, the jazz clubs, the beignets at the Café du Monde and breakfast at Brennan’s come to mind when you think of New Orleans. But that’s not all there is to this unique American city, filled with treasures both culinary and cultural.

Go There

© All Rights Reserved. 2015.
This site is designed and maintained by WYNK Marketing. Send all technical issues to:
Friendly Planet Travel

Lovin Life After 50

Big Sur ad

Tara Tours ad

Alaska Cruises & Vacations ad

Cruise One ad

Visit Norway ad

Sitka, Alaska ad

Montreal tourism site

Visit Berlin ad

official website of the Netherlands

Cruise Copenhagen ad

Sun Valley ad

Philippine Department of Tourism portal

Quebec City tourism ad

AlaskaFerry ad

Zurich official website

Zuiderzee Museum ad