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Arts / Culture

Christopher Columbus Replica Ships Dock In Palmetto

Two ships that are replicas of Christopher Columbus’s historic sailing vessels, the Pinta and the Niña, have docked in Palmetto for a week-long stop.

The original ships, known as caravels, were among the three-member fleet – including the famed and much larger Santa Maria - which set sail from Spain in 1492.

The Niña was said to be Columbus’s favorite, and he sailed more than 25,000 miles on it. But although as many as 27 crew would sail on it, it was really a cargo vessel.

A replica of the 65-foot long Niña was built by hand and finished in 1992. Its small size comes as a surprise to most visitors, said first mate David Zenk.

“These were never envisioned, nor were any of the ships in that era, envisioned to be transoceanic sailors by any stretch of the imagination. It is fair to say they really didn’t know what they were getting themselves into when they started out,” Zenk said.

According to The Columbus Foundation, which funds the ongoing tour of the vessels, the Niña is “the most historically accurate replica ever built.”

The second ship, the Pinta, set sail for the first time in 2005. It is larger, and has an air-conditioned space below deck.

Together, the ships serve as “floating museums,” stopping at ports all over the Western Hemisphere.

“We get around pretty well. In the 28 years that Niña has been sailing she has over 500,000 miles under her keel,” Zenk said.

Zenk said the only thing modern about the Niña is the GPS.

“Columbus was sort of a seat-of-the-pants sailor, if you will. He went by instinct as much as anything. He used a compass, and a sea quadrant, which determined latitude,” said Zenk, a retired history teacher with a passion for sailing.

“We emphasize the fact that we are a 15th century caravel, with a very nice 21st century navigation and communication devices.”

The ships will be docked at in Palmetto at Regatta Pointe, 1005 Riverside Drive until they set sail again early Monday, March 18.

The next stop is Jupiter, FL on March 22, followed by Venice and Niceville in April.

More information about touring the vessels is at http://thenina.com/tour.html.