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Sarasota News Leader April 12, 2013 Page 71 ing vessel, the Niña would pass any mother- The Pinta and Niña are U.S.-flagged vessels in-law's white-glove test from masthead to owned by the Columbus Foundation, which is bilge. registered in the British Virgin Islands. They The ships are regularly inspected by the U.S. have passed repeatedly through the Panama Coast Guard because they carry passengers. Canal on their educational and recreational And carefully concealed — so as to not spoil voyages along the U.S. East and West Coasts the mysterio — are all the modern electronics and around Central America and the Caribbeneeded by a captain. A radio, global position- an islands. ing system, depth sounder and radar all are The ships are among the rarest of maritime handy to the helm. relics, functional and operational replicas of And what a helm it is. As the original was technology 500 years old — kept running on launched 200 years before sailors discovered ticket sales, donations, grants and sheer guts. the steering wheel, the Niña uses a massive In Amsterdam and London and even Adelaide, 10-foot tiller to operate an equally massive, Australia, you will find tall ships at museums. barn-door rudder. In heavy weather, said Bick- All are berthed ashore or floating outside the el, the tiller can knock a grown man down. facilities. None of them is working the sea. Niña is not for day sailors. There is a stillness to a museum ship. To walk Regarding notes for naval architects: Niña the deck of HMS Victory or the Cutty Sark is carries 2,000 square feet of sail on four masts; a thrill, but absent is the tug of the ocean on two masts are single-spar square-rigged; the the deck of a live vessel. A boat is as incomaft masts are lateen. She carries 20 tons of plete without the sea as a dog is without a stone ballast set like a paved surface above master or a vicar without a soul. the keel; such stones were later called "Belgian blocks" and used to pave some streets As we celebrate Florida's 500th anniversary of of Washington, New York City and Richmond, discovery by Europeans, the Niña is someVA, among others. thing we can wrap our imagination around. Niña displaces 76 tons, giving her roughly It is not some fake artifact like a "fountain of a 25 percent ballast-to-displacement ratio. youth." On the Niña we can imagine the endAnd that accounts for her motion at sea. "She less voyage west, hear in our mind the lookrolls," said Bickel. Today each ship is crewed out cry, "Land ho" and see anew the feast of by four to seven people; in the 1490s, crews flowers that would become Florida. were around 25 in number because the voyages were longer. In all weathers, the crew slept, ate and lived on deck. Today the storage hold has been converted to berths and a galley for the much smaller crew. Your time machine awaits. The ships will be available at Regatta Point Marina in Palmetto through April 16. Admission is $8 for adults. %

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