Step off the dock and into history at the sailing museum anchored Friday in Guntersville.
The historic ships there are recognized as the most accurate replicas ever built of the ones used by Christopher Columbus. A sense of exploration and learning is what the crew wants you to feel when you step on board.
“We call these the space shuttles of the 15th century,” said Captain Stephen Sanger.
The largest ship, the Pinta, is 85 feet long and has a beam 24 feet high. The Niña replica was built the same way the real one was built in 1460, without any power tools. It took almost three years.
The Pinta and Niña are making their way though Alabama’s waters with a crew living aboard just like hundreds of years ago.
“First when you walk on board you’re just imagining 20 to 30 men living out in the open deck of the ship,” Sanger said. “And down below in the cargo hold where we get lucky to sleep today is where the animals would’ve been down below, hanging in slings so they won’t break their legs with the rocky motion of the ships.”
The ships were the beginning for the United States we know today. But the focus of the Pinta and Niña isn’t the genocide once Columbus landed; it’s about the giant vessels that opened trade routes around the world.
“It’s the history,” Sanger said. “It’s getting them to understand the caravel. They’re beautiful and they get you from A to B no matter how rough the weather is. This ship’s been through 34-foot seas and hurricane force winds.”
The ships teach the master craftsmanship that, as the crew knows, keeps them safe.
“Storms, when you’re first on board, definitely scary,” said Sanger. “You’re on board longer, you gain more trust in the ship and understand these ships lasted 300 or 400 years in history.”
In 25 years the Niña replica has logged over half a million miles.
The ships will be docked at City Harbor in Guntersville until September 2nd. If you can’t wait to hop on board as part of the crew, the Columbus Foundation reports they’re always looking for crew and you can apply online.