BRIDGEPORT — If you’re looking for something patriotic to do this weekend, you might want to visit two of the most famous ships in the history of our country.
The Niña and the Pinta have pulled up to the main dock at Captain’s Cove, but at least this time around, the locals won’t have to worry about sailors marching ashore with broadswords, shields and helmets.
These are near-exact replicas of the legendary caravels of Christopher Columbus, built of Brazilian hardwoods using the same techniques employed in the 15th century. They are open to the public Sunday and Monday,
The Niña was built completely by hand and without the use of power tools. Archaeology magazine called the ship “the most historically correct Columbus replica ever built.” The Pinta was more recently built in Brazil to accompany the Nina on her travels, and is a slightly larger version of the archetypal caravel. Historians consider the caravel the Space Shuttle of the fifteenth century.
Contrary to the image that many may people have of Columbus with his hands on a ship’s wheel, the Niña and the Pinta both have tillers for steering.
The wheel didn’t come along until the early 1700s,” said Stephen Sanger, captain of the Nina.” Out in the open ocean when we’re under sail, they can be a bit of a handful,” he said of the tillers
The modern-day Niña and the Pinta have some 21st century features, however. Both are powered, the better to get in and out of port. The ships also have electricity to power such equipment as navigation lights and laptops. They also have a website (http://www.thenina.com/) and a Facebook page.
The crew is also a good deal smaller than in the era of Columbus. There are typically 16 officers and crew between the two ships; the original Niña and the Pinta had about 18 men each.
After this stop, the ships will weigh anchor for Norwich. After that, they are scheduled to stop at Bristol, R.I., and Camden, Maine.
So what about the Santa Maria, Columbus’ flagship?
“There’s no replica of her,” said Bruce Williams, who manages Captain’s Cove with his dad, Kaye. “An accurate copy of the Santa Maria would draw too much water, and it wouldn’t be able to get into all of the little marinas and harbors.”