On a quiet afternoon this weekend, it was easy to imagine the waves erasing the years, to imagine that we were experiencing the vision Native Americans saw 450 years ago when a Spanish tall ship rounded the tip of Parris Island and came into view off Port Royal, South Carolina.
More than 40 years before the English settled at Jamestown in Virginia, the Spanish built a town and fort on an island in Port Royal Sound.
Jamestown has long claimed the title of First European Settlement, but recent archeological work on the 9th hole of the Parris Island golf course proves a different story.
The Spanish established a permanent settlement in 1566, Santa Elena, on that very spot on the island you see in the background of the photo.
Santa Elena served as the Spanish capital of Florida from 1569 to 1587. The area then called Florida encompassed most of what is known as the United States today.
As we watched, a Coast Guard tender and several yachts escorted El Galeon, a 125 foot tall, 500 ton replica of a 16th century Spanish ship, into the harbor, to the Port Royal Dock.
Along with those of us gathered on the beach, kayakers watched from the water.
The ship left St. Augustine, Florida, the day before, following the historic journey of Pedro Menendez de Aviles when he sailed into Port Royal Sound on the same day in 1566.
This week the 450th anniversary of the settlement at Santa Elena is being celebrated with lots of events, including the opening of the new Santa Elena museum in Beaufort and the arrival of El Galeon in Port Royal.
It is docked among the shrimp boats and will be open for tours over the next week.
If only they had had the sails up!