ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- One of the only Americans living aboard the tall ship in St. Augustine is a Florida teacher hoping to take back an amazing experience to his classroom.
"I'm an art teacher from Brevard County," Wade Ross explained to tourists who visited El Galeon Monday. "I'm hoping to be part of the sailing crew."
Ross is having one heck of a summer vacation.
"My summer vacation has been more of less working on this ship. During the day, I'm a tour guide," he explained.
When he "works" on the ship, he meets tourists and educates them about the ship, answering all kinds of questions that come his way.
The ship is a replica of a 17th century ship from Spain, the type that Pedro Menendez would have sailed.
Ross saw the ship weeks ago while it was docked in Port Canaveral, and he had to be on it.
"I emailed them my qualifications and they invited me aboard," he said.
He is living and volunteering on the ship this summer.
"I have never lived with 25 people on a ship," he smiled.
Ross showed First Coast News around parts of the ship that few tourists ever get to see.
He walked down some stairs and through a back door into the crew quarters. Bunk beds lined the walls each with a small curtain for privacy.
He described each bunk as the size of two coffins. And each bunk has some storage area for personal affects, but it's not a lot of room.
There's a fan, air conditioning, and even a place for toothbrushes.
In the galley, there are a few long wooden tables and benches. "This is where everybody has breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. So we all sit around like a big family."
The kitchen is in the same room and wafts of baking bread filled the area.
"The food is great," Ross nodded. "I don't always know what it is, but it's authentic Spanish food." He said there are two cooks aboard.
The crew is mostly from Spain except for a couple other Americans. Ross speaks some Spanish.
"I don't speak fluently, but I have a good knowledge," he noted. He can explain things, ask questions, and "tell a few jokes" so he has received a warm welcome from the crew.
The ship has four levels, so crew members often climbing ladders or stairs to get from place to place.
Ross hopes to take his experience on this tall ship back to the classroom in Titusville, where he will teach middle school in the fall.
"I know when I tell [the students] I was on a Spanish galleon, they'll say I'm a liar. And then," he smiled, "I will pull out the pictures!"
Ross wants to actually set sail with the crew later this month.
"I'm hoping to get to travel to New York with them. However, there is an act which may prevent a volunteer from sailing to the next port which will be New York on July 4th. It's called the Jones Act."
He thinks sailing on the ship would be another experience to weave into his lesson plans at school. For now, "I'm living the life of a Spanish sailor! And tour guide!"
He's a man who often travels to overseas during his summer vacations, but this year, he's not leaving the country.
"There's Spanish food, people speak Spanish, and it's a Spanish ship. It really is like being in another country," Ross smiled. "I'm just on a boat from another country."
If Ross sets sail on El Galeon, he will send First Coast News updates about his travels.
Tours of El Galeon are open to the public. The ship is docked at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina downtown until June 23rd.
Click here for more information on touring El Galeon.
----To connect with Jessica Clark, follow her on Twitter at@JessicaFCN or Like her on Facebook.
First Coast News