Monday, February 9, 2015

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 198: Tour a replica of the Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria

Replicas of the Pinta and the Nina in Gulf Shores.
Five or six years ago, a one-sheet press release came across our office fax letting us know that replicas of Christopher Columbus’ famous ships, the Nina and Pinta, would be in Gulf Shores, Ala. for all to see. As best that I can remember, I’d never heard of these replicas, which are owned by the Columbus Foundation and are supposed to be exact copies of the ships made famous by Columbus’ well known voyage to the Americas in 1492. I’ve wanted to go check out these ships ever since I first heard about them, and I even added a trip to see the ships to my “bucket list.”

Earlier this year, on Jan. 12, our newspaper office received another one-page press release letting us know that these replicas would be at Lulu’s Homeport Marina on Feb. 5-Feb. 9. My wife and I immediately made plans to take the kids, who have both studied Columbus’ voyage in school. I also really wanted to see these ships for myself.

According to the press release, these ships were “built completely by hand and without the use of power tools.” Archaeology magazine called the Nina replica, the ‘most historically correct Columbus replica ever built.’ Along with the Pinta, which was built in Brazil in 2005, both ships are touring together as an “enhanced ‘sailing museum’ for the purpose of educating the public and school children.” For more information about these ships, visit

We made the short trip to Gulf Shores on Saturday morning and bought tickets to see both ships (grand total, $28). We checked out the Pinta first, and I was immediately surprised by the size of the ship. It was a lot smaller than I expected, and it was hard to imagine a crew of grown men traveling from Europe to the Americas aboard this small sailing ship.

The Nina seemed to be somewhat smaller, but not much smaller. Both ships were manned by crewmen, who also served as tour guides. They answered everyone’s questions about the ships and also demonstrated the primitive sailing equipment on board. In the few minutes I spent with them, listening, I felt like I learned a lot.

While aboard the Pinta, one of the crewmen noted that the Santa Maria was about twice the size of the Pinta and the Nina. The Santa Maria, which sank off Haiti on Christmas Day 1492, was the largest of Columbus’ three ships, but it was also the slowest. Hopefully, one day, the Columbus Foundation will construct a replica of this historic ship.

Given the size of the two replicas, it didn’t take long to check them out thoroughly. I’d estimate that, at the most, we spent 30 to 45 minutes exploring both ships. On the way out, I noticed a sandwich board that said that before coming to Gulf Shores, the ships had docked at Bayou La Batre and they were scheduled to arrive in St. Marks, Fla. on Feb. 13. Before July, the were scheduled to make stops in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and New York.

In the end, how many of you have ever toured a replica of one (or more) of Columbus’s ships? Which did you tour and where? What did you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below.

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