Floating in the Arkansas River this week are two pieces of history — the Pinta and Nina.
Replicas of the originals, they are two of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus to cross the Atlantic Ocean and discover a new world.
Now the boats are in Little Rock through Wednesday, Nov 8, before departing for Fort Smith and ending in Muskogee, Okla., on Dec. 3.
“We like coming here,” said deckhand Jamie Durant of Newport, R.I. “This is the last big city we are in before the [tour] is up.”
The Pinta and Nina last came to central Arkansas three years ago and Durant said the reception then was a good one, “we probably had 5,000 people come through.”
The boats are operated by the Columbus Foundation of Tortola, British Virgin Islands and have been touring since March of this year when they started in Perdido Key, Fla. and went up the east coast before cutting into the middle of America using the Erie Canal
The Nina was built by hand and without the use of power tools and is considered to be the most historically correct Columbus Replica ever built.
It is shockingly small.
“That’s what everyone says” Durant said with a laugh. “They can’t get over how small it is.”
The replica Pinta is about 15 percent larger than the original but still on the small side.
Both boats have a draft of about seven feet, which is what allows them to use the Arkansas River to travel. Those boats, called “caravels”, can travel in shallower water and it also the reason why the two replicas aren’t joined by Columbus’s third ship — the Santa Maria.
“It has a draft of 14 feet,” Durant said. “And it couldn’t go to the places we go to now.”
The Santa Maria was also what is called a “nao” in nautical terms. It was also bigger than both the Nina and Pinta.
For those wanting to, walk-ups are welcome, but larger groups are encouraged to call 787-672-2152 or visit www.ninapinta.org to arrange a tour.
Admission is $8 for adults and $7 for seniors. Students are $6 and those 4 and under are free. Groups are $5 a person with a minimum of 15 people for a tour.
The ships are open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.