Rose: “I went to the Bahamas once.”
David: “Oh really? Was it on the Nina, The Pinta, or the Santa Maria?”
Rose: “It was a DC10. I don’t think it had a name.”
Now that you’ve had your daily dose of The Golden Girls…
Recently my husband and my mother-in-law indulged me and went with me to visit something that I had always wanted to see. Ever since I was a child, these replica ships of the Nina and the Pinta have been sailing into ports in and around Pensacola and I have always wanted to go and tour them. As a history nerd, it’s something that I felt I had to do. For years I bugged my parents about it and we never went. So when I found out recently that the ships would be docking in Perdido Key, Florida, I began to bug my husband about it. He finally gave in and we invited his mom to join us. If you’re wondering where the Santa Maria was, there isn’t a replica of it that tours with the other ships. It was much larger than the Nina and the Pinta and it was found to be much too large to travel to the small locales where these ships lay anchor today. And as the crew explained, ‘Columbus never liked the Santa Maria much anyway.’
Let’s just say that I had big expectations for these ships and what all they would offer and I was a little disappointed. I think it’s important to look at historical sites and replicas from the perspective of those who built or used them throughout history and I didn’t feel that these ships really gave me the up close and personal look that I was in search of. They were beautiful vessels and they were very intricate in their design and their historical accuracy. With that being said, the part that I was most interested in, the crew’s quarters, was off limits. I was hoping to be able to go down and see the areas where the crews would have lived (and where the actual sailing crews today are living just the way that Columbus’s men did so many years ago…kind of). I wanted to get a perspective for what it must have been like to live on those ships day in and day out on the ocean blue. I wanted to know what their struggle must have been like and I hoped that it would give me a greater appreciation for the feeling that they had when they finally reached the new world. But the only areas that the ships had to offer were above deck and although the ships are large, the giant masts and so forth took up the majority of the real estate up there. We got in a good 20 steps on each boat and that was all.
Now this is not to say that I didn’t gain a lot of knowledge about the ships and about the original voyages from this experience. I did. The volunteer crew onboard was phenomenal and they were readily available to answer any and all questions that you might have. They were very knowledgeable about the ships and the maiden voyages of Columbus back in 1492.
They even explained how they navigate the waters today and the back up engines and navigation systems on board that keep the ships on the straight and narrow. To be fair, these nice folks explained that they aren’t allowed to give tours below deck due to U.S. Coast Guard regulations and I completely understand that they have to follow the rules just like we all do. It was just kind of a let down in my opinion. I don’t know why it was so important for me to see what lies beneath, but it was. I’m a wheelhouse kind of person. I like to sit in the driver’s seat, and see the inner workings of any and all ‘machinery’ that I come in contact with. But hey, curiosity killed the cat.
I found it incredible that these crew members volunteer for months at a time to live on these ships and travel just to teach little ones and big ones alike about the history behind these vessels. I would love to have an experience like that where I could learn so much and travel to so many places in the name of educational history. If I weren’t married and if I didn’t have a pants job and financial obligations, I might consider doing it myself. But I couldn’t help wondering if I would only do it so that I could see what lies below deck.
All in all, I’d give this a 2 out of 5 stars in terms of satisfaction. And a 10 out of 5 for historical relevance and craftsmanship. I encourage you to visit these ships, and if you can, leave a tip for these wonderful folks that bring these ships closer to us. Just don’t expect the full experience. You will be sorely disappointed.
Now that I’ve whined like a child about this experience, I will provide you a link to the Columbus Foundation so that you can check out the work that goes into these ships and all of the places that they will be visiting. For anyone who is passionate about vessels or the art of sailing, this is a sure thing for you. You will love it. And for those of us who geek out over history, it’s still pretty cool.