Sunday, June 5, 2011

Exploring The Niña and the Pinta in Norwich

Ships in the Harbor

On what was unarguably the nicest Friday we've had in a long time, my dispatch partner Jeff and I took a trip down to the Norwich harbor to check out a couple of visitors to the city for the weekend - replicas of two of Columbus' ships, the Niña and the Pinta.

Aft of the PintaThe two ships, which belong to the Columbus Foundation, travel together as enhanced "sailing museums" with the goal of educating the public and school children on the ‘caravel’, a Portuguese ship used by Columbus and many early explorers to discover new frontiers. Their last port was in Washington D.C. and following their stay in Norwich for the city's Riverfest Celebration they will be continuing north to Kittery, Maine.

Thinking it would be just the place to take the 'kids' (my Nikon and Jeff''s!) we went down to the harbor around 1:00 where we paid our $8 admission which helps defray the cost of the ships and keeping them afloat and then joined the other folks who decided it was a good day to see just how small the ships were that helped Columbus sail the ocean blue in 1492.  And let me tell you - they're small!

Nina Info

The Niña is an exact replica of the type of ship that Columbus and his men used when setting out to cross the Atlantic and explore the New World in an attempt to find a better trade route to the West Indies. A common trading vessel in use during the Age of Discovery, Portuguese caravels were also used as cargo carriers, warships, patrol boats, and even corsairs (pirate ships). Good sailing ships that they were the caravels had the advantages of speed, a shallow draught, and excellent maneuverability however there wasn't much by way of living space for the 27 crew members aboard.

I was rather surprised to find out that back in Columbus' day all of the crew members slept on deck as the hold was reserved for cargo like provisions, armament, water, and livestock like chickens, horses, cows, and pigs that traveled in harnesses as otherwise their legs would have broken from the rolling motion of the ships.  With all of that in the hold the crew would sleep on deck and unless they were lucky enough to find a spot up on the poop deck they'd generally be sleeping on a wet deck being that the holds were laden down with cargo and the ships would ride very low in the water.

The Hold Info

Like all ships of its type, the Niña carried a boat that was used when the crew would need to go ashore but don't get the wrong idea and think that it also doubled as a lifeboat as, according to the crew member we spoke to, it took anywhere from 3-4 hours to launch the thing using the windlass.

Ship's Boat Info
The Ship's Boat

The windlass was also used to raise the anchor on board - a task that took approximately three hours according to our crew member - as it only moved a couple inches per turn.  

Windlass Info
The Windlass

Walking around the two ships, we had the chance to read signage on most of the things that a person might have questions about like these lines ... 


and this line ... 

Halyard Line

and the Captain's Quarters (at least Columbus got to sleep below-deck though he only had four feet of headroom and danged little for ventilation!) 

Captain's Quarters

There were the ship's tillers (the oh-so-romantic ship's wheel wasn't invented until just about 100 years later) ...

The Ship's Tiller

and the hand-knotted bumpers that would protect the sides of the ship from the wooden docks and wharves ... 

Ship's Bumper

It really was a beautiful day to be on-board the ship and it would have been an even nicer day to take a sail up the Thames River but that's probably about as far as I'd want to go on one of these ships ... or maybe I wouldn't mind going a little further out and going once around the Block - Island, that is!

A View AftThe Bow

The Pinta, built larger than an original caravel, joined the Niña in 2005 as a floating museum and it's also available for charter should one wish to be desirous of taking a sail or having a party on a really neat sailing vessel.   

Sideview of the PintaThe Pinta

Just in case we weren't familiar with one, the first thing that greets you upon boarding the Pinta is a ... 

It's a Barrel!

Up on the poop deck was a rather small cannon but true to what was used during that era as mostly they were used for signaling other ships.


There was obviously a lot of rigging ... 

Masts and Rigging

including more shrouds ... 

Shroud Lines

The picture below is from the top of the poop deck looking towards the bow of the ship.

View from the Pinta's Upper Deck

Below the poop deck was a small museum area where you could learn about the history of the original Pinta as well as buy a souvenir if you'd like.  Jeff bought a t-shirt but I figured I had plenty of pictures for souvenirs! 

History of the Original Pinta

However there's always room for more so while he made his purchase I went out and took a several more shots on the deck ... 

Looking Aft
Main Mast
Masts and Rigging

I don't know, there's just something about a ship's lines and rigging and sails - furled or not - that totally appeals to the romantic in me. Who knows, maybe I was a sailor in another life? Though hopefully not on one of Columbus' ships as it really doesn't sound like the most appealing life to me though the adventure certainly had to be grand in spite of the living conditions!

The Pinta at Dock

If you'd like to discover more information on the Niña and the Pinta - but not the Santa Maria as apparently she was Columbus' least favorite ship! - visit the Columbus Foundation website where you can also find information on how you could become a crew member should you crave a little adventure and travel.  

Looking for a few good men

Personally, I'm just happy to take pictures of blue skies and riggings! 

Rigging and Clouds


  1. another fine post to learn much from (y'all)...

    smiles, bee

  2. I love anything nautical. These are no exception. Excellent history lesson as always.

    The sky is very pretty too. It's raining here. Still. This is day three and tomorrow it's going to rain again.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  3. Still chuckling over Quintero being married to a masterful Pinto, thus the "Pinta" nickname. Oh, those seamen and their hilarity!
    Some beautiful shots as always and a thank you for the history lesson - had no idea about the crew sleeping on deck. Interesting!

  4. Interesting for sure, but I am so glad I wasn't born in that era. I do love my modern amenities. I'm so glad we have Carnival Cruise Lines! Just saying. After touring the ship (I can't remember the name but I know you do) on our walkabout in Old San Juan and me tripping on the anchor post rope thingy and just about killing myself, followed quickly by going down and seeing the sleeping quarters and feeling the stifling heat... I love Carnival even more!

  5. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I love your pink and yellow theme change! :D

  6. Anonymous7:03 AM EDT

    pretty theme change! Love those ships. I can't believe they all slept on deck. I'll bet that was interesting. Gives me even more respect to our early explorers.

    Don't you have two able-bodied young ladies who might serve as crew members? Just sayin'... LOL!

    P.S. you mentioned Kittery, Maine. Miss that place.

  7. I love the shots of all the lines against that amazing sky

    and now I know where the word shroud comes from! :)

    looks like it was a great visit

    love the new layout

  8. Just looking at your beautiful photographs make me want to put to sea or at least sing along with Tom Waits

  9. I bet we were on that same crew in another life, Linda! LOVED your shots - thanks for taking us along.

  10. 1. Love the new pink template
    2. I think the Distracted Wanderer should sign up for at least one trip as Crew ;)Nevermind, I forgot about the sea legs thing on the cruise
    3. Love your pics and the blue sky and all the details you sought out.

    Thanks for taking us along!

  11. No way would I cross any sea in these! Great post, as usual.

    Big hugs, honey...

  12. Oh be still my heart....I LOVE tall ships although I always persist in calling them pirate ships!!! lol Your pictures are absolutely amazing and seeing all the rigging against that blue sky is stunning to say the least. So very interesting to learn more about the Nina and Pinta!! xoxo

  13. Gosh...I can still say gosh without sounding really corny, right?

    Anyway...gosh! The flowers in your new header are gorgeous!


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