original Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria used
by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage across the Atlantic
were common trading vessels. The Santa Maria which Columbus
never liked, ran aground and sank on Christmas Eve 1492 in Hispaniola
(now Cap Haitien). She was a Nao, a type of cargo vessel. The Niña and Pinta were Caravels which were used by explorers during the Age of Discovery. The Pinta returned
home and disappeared from History without a trace, but the Niña,
now there's a woman with a past.
- The Niña was Columbus' favorite and for good reason. She
was named Santa Clara after the patron saint of Moguer.
A Spanish vessel in those days had an official religious name
but was generally known by nickname, which might be a feminine
form of her masters patronmyic, or of her home port. Santa Clara
was always Niña, after her master-owner Juan Nino of Moguer.
Vincente Yanez was her Captain on Columbus' First Voyage, and he later discovered the Amazon on an independent voyage. Built in the Ribera de Moguer, an estuary, now silted up, of the Rio Tinto, Niña made the entire First Voyage, bringing
Columbus safely home. She accompanied the grand fleet of the
Second Voyage to Hispaniola and Columbus selected her out of
seventeen ships for his flagship on an exploratory voyage to
Cuba, and purchased a half share in her.
She was the only vessel
in West Indian waters to survive the hurricane of 1495, and
then brought back the Admiral and 120 passengers to Spain in
1496. She was then chartered for an unauthorized voyage to Rome,
and was captured by a corsair when leaving the port of Cagliari,
and brought to an anchor at Cape Pula, Sardinia where she was
stripped of her arms and crew. The Captain, Alonso Medel, escaped
with a few men, stole a boat, rowed back to Niña, cut
her cables and made sail.
She returned to Cadiz in time to sail
for Hispaniola early in 1498, as advance guard of Columbus'
Third Voyage. She was lying in Santo Domingo in 1500, and we
last heard of her making a trading voyage to the Pearl Coast
in 1501. The Niña logged at least 25,000 miles under
1988, an American engineer and maritime historian, John Patrick
Sarsfield, began building what was to become the first truly,
historically correct replica of a 15th Century Caravel. John
had discovered a group of master shipbuilders in Bahia, Brazil
who were still using design and construction techniques dating
back to the 15th Century.
was in Valenca, Brazil, using only adzes, axes, hand saws, and
chisels, in additiion to naturally-shaped timbers from the local
forest, that the Sarsfield Niña was built.
Nance, a British maritime historian and main researcher for
the project produced a sail plan for the ship, which represents
the Niña as she would have appeared during the eight
recorded busy years of her life following her departure from
the Canary Islands in September 1492.
December 1991, the Niña left Brazil and sailed to Costa
Rica on a 4000 mile unescorted maiden voyage to take part in
the filming of 1492. Since then, the ship has visited over 300
ports in the U.S. She is the only 'sailing museum' which is
continually 'discovering' new ports, while giving the public
an opportunity to visit one of the greatest little ships in
the world's history.