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Dredging impasse prevents replica-ship’s visit

A wooden reproduction of a 16th-century Spanish galleon that made an appearance with Johnny Depp in the film “Pirates of the Caribbean” and on John Malkovich’s TV show “Crossbones” was supposed to arrive next month at South Jersey Marina in Cape May, N.J.

But El Galeón Andalucía’s visit had to be canceled because of an impasse over dredging a channel. The waterway was too shallow for the ship’s visit.

“The main issue has been dredge spoil disposal,” marina spokesman Mark Allen said. The ship’s visit was expected to draw scads of visitors and its cancellation will hurt the region, he said.

“We had a lot of school groups lined up and at least two private fundraisers. It would have been a huge deal,” Allen said.

El Galeón is a replica of late 16th-century merchant vessels and warships. The 170-foot, 500-ton ship is the only galleon-class vessel sailing today. It’s slated to make stops on the East Coast that will include Baltimore and Fort Lauderdale.

Last year the ship spent three months in Puerto Rico, where NBC’s “Crossbones” was filmed. It stars Malkovich as the legendary pirate Blackbeard. It also visited Ocean City, Md.

The Cape May County Department of Tourism and the Southern Shore Destination Marketing Organization had offered initial support. South Jersey Marina, County Tourism and Southern Shore DMO recognized early on the potential of hosting the tall ship event during Cape May’s fall shoulder season.

South Jersey Marina owner Rick Weber has informed tour organizers and ship owners that plans are in the works to dredge all of Schellenger’s Creek later this year and assured them that Cape May will make it an ideal host for future visits.

“If nothing else, this experience should clearly show state and local officials why functional waterways are critical to our area,” Weber said in a statement. “Properly maintained waterways nourish tourism, recreational boating, commercial fishing, property values and so much more. If these are things we value, we must make dredging a priority at all levels.”

Losing the visit from the Spanish ship highlights the problem of a shore resort not maintaining its waterways, according to a report detailing the impasse in the Press of Atlantic City.

“The issue is finally getting the attention it deserves,” Allen said. “I made the statement: First we’ve lost the Andalucia. What’s next, our commercial fishing fleet? The Coast Guard? The recreational fishing fleet? Well, at least we can still stand-up paddleboard.”