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Columbus's Nina is almost ready to sail again in Texas

by Sail-World Cruising Round-up on 22 Nov 2013
Nina in Corpus Christi SW
La Niña, or colloquially simply 'Nina', is almost ready to sail again! La Niña was one of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first voyage towards the Indies in 1492. The others were the Pinta and the Santa Maria.

In Spain, in 1992, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's history voyage, an ambitious project was completed - the building of three replicas. After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the three ships toured America ports in 1992 before coming to their permanent home in Corpus Christi in 1993. Other replicas have been built in other parts of the world.

However, the Corpus Christi replicas, the Pinta and Santa Maria, can be seen in dry dock at the Museum for Science and History, in Corpus Christi, Texas and are likely beyond repair. The Nina, however, was docked for a while in the City Marina, but recently has been undergoing restoration by a few enthusiasts. It's slow work, but they are succeeding gradually.

The local group is called the Columbus Sailing Association, and now that they're getting another chunk of money from the city, they're very close to their goal.

When the group stepped in three years ago to repair the ship, its condition was just bad.

John Torrey is one of the key members of the group.

'She was ready to sink... It was all grey and rotting, and you could see the planks falling down,' Torrey says.

But now, Torrey says she's almost ready to sail.

The last few months have been crucial for the ship. In August, A.E.P. and South Texas Crane donated their services to install new masts. A $35,000 value that the Association got for free.

Now, another $8,800 in funds will help them finish the construction phase, replacing the fore-deck, fixing the railing, and cleaning up any other issues.

'The city will see something in about six months that they could actually be proud of. So we're happy for that,' Torrey says.

And while the city owns the three ships, the money did not come taxpayers. Rather, it came from selling lead used for ballast in the Santa Maria.

That same process will likely be used to try and purchase sails for the ship, the final step before she's ready to sail.

'We do have about thirty thousand pounds of lead that we have left that we can sell and market,' Torrey says.

When it is finally done, the Association wants to have sailing classes, go on trips, give tours, and just let the citizens of Corpus Christi and anywhere else enjoy some history.

'It is like a time machine. When you step on board and the sails billow out, you just went back 500 years and Christopher Columbus is over your shoulder,' Torrey says.

More about the Nina (Wikipedia):
The Niña, Columbus's favorite, was originally lateen sail rigged caravela latina, but she was re-rigged as caravela redonda at Azores with square sails for better ocean performance. There is no authentic documentation on the specifics of the Niña's design, although Michele de Cuneo, who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage, mentioned that the Nina was 'about 60 toneladas' (60 tons), which may indicate a medium sized Caravel of around 50 feet (15 m) in length on deck. She was often said to have had three masts, there is other evidence she may have had four masts.

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