GALLIPOLIS — A sailing museum made of a pair of replicas of Christopher Columbus’ ships, the Nina and Pinta, have drawn thousands to the Gallipolis Public Use Access waterfront dock.
The ships first opened for touring in the Gallipolis’ dock on Nov. 2.
“We had approximately 30 group tours scheduled, 15 plus per group, for an estimated total of 4,000, during the Nina and Pinta visit,” said Gallia Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Amanda Crouse.
“We sail further than just rivers,” said crew member Jeff Hicks. “The ships were conceived of by Captain Morgan (Sanger and Columbus Foundation founder). He wanted to sail the ships around the country and tell the story of Columbus and that’s how it got started. That was in the 1980s. They researched the ships for about two and a half years to find out what a caravel truly was and the particulars about the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria…They found out they only had enough time to build one so they picked Columbus’ favorite ship which was the Nina. The Nina was the smallest of the three in the fleet…The ships were built in Valenca, Brazil. “
Hicks said among the shipwrights who constructed the ships were Portuguese who were reportedly eighth generation builders. The Nina first set sail in 1991 while the Pinta first set sail in 2005 after also being built in Valenca. Both ships are considered of the caravel type. Each should took roughly three years to build.
“The Nina has traveled all over the United States and through the Caribbean,” said Hicks. “She actually was even the ship featured in the movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise. In 1992, that was released by Ridley Scott. She started her career as a movie star.”
“Everybody is a volunteer,” said Hicks of crew members. “We come aboard the ship because we’ve seen them and advertise for our crew at the ship. We get crew members from all parts of the country, the captain just asks for a commitment of three to four weeks. If you have the lifestyle and don’t have family members depending on you, sometimes we find people will stay longer. It’s a neat adventure.”
Hicks has been part of the ships’ crew for three years.
“Normally we do the American loop which is anywhere from twelve to 15,000 miles and we do that two years in a row,” said Hicks. “The captains select the cities we go to and we do repeat some of the larger cities like Pittsburgh and Naples, Florida. We’ve been to Tampa. The captains determine that before our year starts.”
“The original crews (of the historic ships) would sleep right on deck but we sleep below and have some modern conveniences and a full galley to cook meals,” said Hicks. “We have electricity where we can charge our items. It’s like camping on water.”
In larger bodies of water, the ships will sail. In smaller areas, both ships do carry engines to assist in movement.
The Columbus Foundation is dedicated to educating visitors to the sailing of caravels and the history behind Columbus’ voyage.
The ships will be open until 5 p.m. Wednesday before moving to their next location in Ashland, Kentucky.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.