Monday, August 20, 2018

Aboard the Nina and Pinta

As I stepped aboard, the planks of Brazilian ironwood creaked beneath my feet.  Above me, the masts reached for the sky and the sails, although not raised, moved ever so slightly in the breeze.  The vessel gently bobbed and swayed in the water's current. 

Feeling as if I had stepped back into time to a completely different era, I momentarily forgot where I was. Only when the sound of a jet flying overhead broke me from my spell did I remember that I wasn't in the fifteenth or sixteenth century crossing the Atlantic on an epic voyage to discover new worlds.  Instead, I was on a ship that was moored on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Louisville, KY in the year 2018.  

Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I'd stand on a replica of one of the most famous and historically significant ships of all time and stand on it in Louisville - which is, after all, in a land-locked state. But, thanks to the Ohio River, I did.

Last week, the Niña and the Pinta, replicas of the caravels that brought Christopher Columbus to the new world in 1492, arrived in the Derby City.  These floating museums will be on exhibit until August 28.  

The Niña is a full size replica of Columbus' original ship and is said to be the most historically accurate Columbus ship ever built.  It is 65 feet long, 18 feet wide at it's widest point, and has a displacement of 80 tons.

The Niña
The Pinta is larger than the original as it was designed to accommodate more passengers so it can be used for chartered events and such.  It is 85 feet long, 24 feet wide at its widest point, and has a displacement of 101 tons.

The Pinta

Both ships were built in Brazil using native hardwoods and were constructed by eighth generation Portuguese shipwrights.  The Niña was built using only adzes, axes, hand saws, and chisels, in addition to naturally shaped timbers from the local forest.  It took 20 men 32 months to build.  The Pinta took 36 months.

As a kid, when I learned about Columbus in school, I remember wondering what life was like as an early explorer.  More specifically, I wondered how Columbus and members of his crew felt as they sailed into uncharted waters, were at sea for months at a time, lived in cramped quarters, and had no idea of what awaited them when they reached their destination, if they reached their destination at all.

Although I can never know how those early explorers felt, after touring the replica caravels, I think I have a better idea of what life was like on board.  One of the staff members explained that most of the time, the members of Columbus' crew slept on deck, which I can't imagine at all, especially as the boat rocked and rolled.  Even Columbus, the main man himself, didn't have much in terms of accommodations (see placard above).  

After seeing how small the ships were and the limited space available on the ships, I have a new found appreciation and respect for what those early explorers endured in the name of discovery and exploration.

A windlass.  This provides the mechanical advantage needed to hoist the anchor aboard.
A wooden handle is inserted into the square holes to provide leverage and are moved as the drum turns.

If you go, remember that the ships will only be in Louisville until August 28.  They are open daily from 9:00am to 6:00pm.  Admission is $8.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors (60 years and older), and $6.50 for children ages 5-16.  Children 4 and under are free.

If you can't visit these floating museums while they're in the Derby City, don't dismay.  For the next 3 months the Niña and Pinta will make port in various towns and cities up and down the Ohio Valley.  Here are the ports they will visit on their "Ohio Valley Tour":

  • Cincinatti, OH/Newport, KY: August 30 - September 16, 2018
  • Parkersburg, WV: September 20 - 25, 2018
  • Wheeling, WV: September 28 - October 2, 2018
  • Pittsburgh, PA: October 4 - 16, 2018
  • Marietta, OH: October 19 - 23, 2018
  • Charleston, WV: October 26 - 31, 2018
  • Gallipolis, OH: November 2 - 7, 2018
  • Ashland, KY: November 9 - 18, 2018
  • Maysville, KY: November 20 - 22, 2018

For more information, please check out their website.

Overall, I thought the experience was very cool.  I honestly had no idea that the ships were that small and that the crew had no real quarters.  Although the ships are replicas, they provided a great glimpse into the past.

Linking up with:

Wednesday Around the World


  1. Early naval history tough job on men. Had to use most room for water and food

  2. Wow! Very interesting!
    Have a great day!

  3. Fabulous images! And what a wonderful replica of history. Tall ships are just so romantic.

  4. I had no idea the ships were that small. I mean, I guess I've read that, but seeing them in these pictures brings it home.

    1. The only thing I've been able to come up with (as to why I didn't realize how small they were) is because of the magnitude of the event in which they were a part of. I think the historical significance magnified their size in my mind.

  5. Omgosh, we were so close and yet still so far from each other! We drove right past these as we went into downtown Louisville to have dinner at the Sidebar! I had only learned about them earlier that day! Wish we had been able to see them up close rather than just from the freeway bridge! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. Yes! You probably would've enjoyed seeing them! I *think* they make an appearance in the area every 3-4 years, so maybe the timing will be right the next time you're in town.

  6. We enjoy visiting exhibitions like these. What a great experience to set foot in these replicas. i didn't realize they were that small and with such cramped quarters. I can't even imagine sailing in those and staying in them for such long periods of time. Fascinating piece of history!

    1. Yeah, I still can't get over how teeny tiny they were. Very eye opening!

  7. These are actually near me now! I didn't realize they were so small either. I guess we just automatically think of these type of ships as being much larger.


    1. If you check them out, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on them.

  8. This sounds so cool! I wish I could check them out!

    1. It was a fun little excursion! Perhaps they'll come to a river port near you next year.


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