Beginning Friday, residents of the Ohio Valley will have a chance to walk the decks of replicas of the Pinta and Nina as the ships dock at Wheeling's Heritage Port until Oct. 10.
The public is invited to visit the vessels and engage in self-guided tours. The ships will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. No reservations are necessary. There is a cost to board.
The history of the vessels is a storied one. It has been 526 years since a man from Genoa approached the Spanish monarchy with a bold idea for a sailing venture. Centuries before men in blue and gray clashed in the first ironclad vessels, and before a man named Armstrong stepped on gray soil and declared, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," there were three wooden ships. One was a large ship named Santa Maria, and the two smaller vessels were called Pinta and Nina.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Replicas of the Nina and Pinta float past Heritage Port in Wheeling. The ships are scheduled to dock at Wheeling’s Heritage Port Friday through Oct. 10.
During Columbus' voyage in 1492, the Santa Maria ran aground in what was then known as Hispaniola, now the Dominican Republic and Haiti. But the Pinta and Nina were caravels, a new kind of ship developed in Portugal and specially designed for speed and rough weather.
Both would survive Columbus' first trip, which led to European knowledge of the American continent and changed the course of Western history.
"Historians consider the caravel the space shuttle of the 15th century," according to a news release from the Columbus Foundation Inc.
The Nina was Columbus' favorite ship. After returning home from his first voyage, he brought it on his second voyage to Hispaniola.
The Nina then became his flagship in his third voyage to Cuba. At least 25,000 miles were logged on the Nina under Columbus' command.
The ship's adventures did not end there. Between the second and third voyages, the Nina had been taken on an unauthorized trip to Rome and captured by pirates. The crew then stole the ship back from the pirates and returned it to Spain.
The last known record of the Nina was in 1501, when it was being used for trading.
Construction began on the first historically accurate replica of the Nina in 1988. The project was completed using only design and construction techniques that would have been used in the 15th century.
It left Brazil and sailed to Costa Rica in 1991, and took part in filming "1492." Since that maiden voyage, the replica has visited 300 ports in the United States.
Nina's sister ship, Pinta, was completed in 2005 to accompany the Nina in its travels. The Pinta is a larger version of caravel and can be chartered out for special events.
Both ships act as a sort of "sailing museum." As they travel, the crew seeks to educate the public and students on the caravel and its place in history. Organizations or schools interested in scheduling 30-minute guided tours can call the crew at 787-672-2152. Groups must be at least 15 people, and there is no maximum. For more information, visit the website at www.thenina.com.