ESCANABA — Earlier this morning, Columbus replica ships of the Pinta and the Niña sailed in to the Escanaba Marina Harbor Master for the first time in over five years.
There are a vast number of reasons why historians consider these ships to be Space Shuttles of the 15th century. These two ships are set up like floating museums, with historical accuracy being a top priority.
One thing that separates the Niña is that it was built completely by hand and without the use of any power tools. It’s considered to be one of the most historically correct Columbus replica ever built.
That kind of attention to detail comes with a lot of hard work.
“Both ships were constructed down in the same shipyard down in Valença Brazil by 8th generation Portuguese shipwrights,” said Captain Stephen Sanger, “it’s one of the only places in the world today where they’re still using the same techniques that they did back to Columbus’ times.”
“One of the craziest things about having it being built by hand tools is we have our giant masts,” said First Mate Michael Sprague, “some are 60 feet long and 5,000 pounds or more. They spent over a month just putting them in, just so they could do it as naturally as possible as they would have done 500 years ago.”
A large number of patrons who visit the ships wonder where the steering wheel is, and are often surprised when they’re told that there is none. Instead, a tiller is used to steer the ship’s rudder, just like it would have in the 1400’s. These two ships travel accordingly to their abilities.
“These ships don’t have much of a keel,” added Sanger, “the keel is what brings you stability and balance when you’re in the open water. These ships will tend to just bob around like a cork whereas more modern ships or sailboats will end up cutting through the waves a lot more.”
The tour is perfect for history buffs and nautical lovers of all–ages. Those who attend often bring many questions with them. The most common question asked is about the absence of the third and largest member of the fleet, the Santa Maria.
“She would require close to 14 feet of water to build a true replica,” concluded Sanger, “these two are 7 feet and right now we’re about 10 feet. So there are a lot of places she would not be able to travel if we were to build her.”
You can find all of the answers to your other questions while taking the tour. The ships will be in port for a walk–aboard, self–guided tour open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.