The Columbus Foundation sponsors these ships. You can find their port schedules and more details about the ships at thenina.com. We spent about an hour touring the ships and listening to crew. The crew is all volunteer. They are out on these ships because they enjoy sailing and history. They are incredibly knowledgable and entertaining.
A historical detail we all found interesting was that the ships of the period were coated with black pine tar including the deck. On a sunny fall morning in Pittsburgh, we were very comfortable even though the decks were a more natural color. We could only imagine how unbearably hot it would have been sailing these boats in the Caribbean.
It was incredible to stand on the decks and imagine the decks packed with cargo and crew with livestock down below. Today the ships sail with about 10 people total in two boats, but in Columbus’s day the crew numbered 20 – 26 per boat.
Growing up in the midwest I’ve had little experience with sail boats. Today will forever change my experience when I read about explorers on caravels. I will have a picture in my mind, not of a vague generic sailboat, but of a hot, crowded, black deck full of people and ropes. I always imagined that sailors felt a bit lonely against the vastness of the sea. Today I gained a sense of how the boat could feel crowded and chaotic or perhaps warm and friendly with a sense of companionship.
My thanks goes out to the people who made this experience possible – both the crew and the dreamers, who thought of the concept and carried it to reality.