Ship offers glimpse of days long past

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Five minutes ago, Marshall student Steve Horton stepped off of the Nina, one of the three ships Columbus used in his first trip across the Atlantic. He's still in awe.

"It was amazing to be that close to a piece of the history of our country," Horton said. "It’s a beautiful ship, but I couldn’t imagine sailing across the Atlantic on it Š it must have been a rough trip."

This is a common reaction for the crew of the Nina, which has been visiting the dock of Huntington, W.Va. since Tuesday.

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The ship, constructed in Bahia, Brazil by the Columbus Foundation, was called "the most historically correct Columbus replica ever built" by Archeology magazine. It was built completely by hand, with absolutely no power tools. It is as close of a remake of Columbus' favorite ship as was humanly possible.

"We're really a floating museum," said "Miss Ellie," a five-year veteran of the ship's crew who serves not only as ticket-taker, but as the boat's cook.

"We like to give people a bit of the history lesson that they're not getting in school these days. We travel with the ship and I've been on for five summers. It's just wonderful."

The original Nina was a sister ship to the Pinta and Santa Maria. The Nina was Columbus' favorite, properly named "Santa Clara," after the patron saint of Moguer. It was given the nickname of Nina soon afterward.

This new version was built beginning in 1988 by an American engineer and maritime historian, John Patrick Sarsfield, in Brazil with the naturally shaped timbers from the local forest. When it was completed in 1991, it made an unescorted maiden voyage to make it's debut in the film, "1492."

Since making it's film bow, the ship has traveled to more than 250 ports throughout the U.S., with it's crew giving guided tours of all the nooks and crannies of the ship, although it recently took two years off in 2000 to get some sun doing day sails in the North Sound of the Grand Cayman.

Jory Edlin is a part of the ship's crew along with Miss Ellie and several others. He just recently came aboard, but has had minimal problems adjusting to life on the 93-foot-long vessel.

"It's both (tough and enjoyable). It's rustic. I've lived on sailboats before, it's not much different," Edlin said. "You know, it's like camping out. It's kind of cramped when you're inside."

Admittedly, conditions are not quite as tough as during the original Nina's voyage. The crew has a full galley, an icebox with 1,000 pounds of ice, and WWII-style pipe berths to sleep on, which help keep the crew cool.

The crew will offer a few more tours today at the Huntington Yacht Club on 13th Street and Second Ave. in Huntington, before setting off for Marietta Monday.