By GWEN SISSON
One of the things visitors always ask is if the size of the ships are accurate.
It is hard to imagine 27 crew members hard at work on the Nina or the Pinta. The floating museums are historically accurate replicas of Christopher Columbus’ Nina and Pinta ships as part of his voyage to discover a “new world.”
Columbus ships Pinta and Nina will be open for self guided walk aboard tours from through Nov. 28.
Tickets are $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for children 5 - 16 and 4 and under are free. No reservations necessary. The event will be held from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day.
Lisa Smith, 7, of Starkville visited the Nina and Pinta Tuesday as part of a special field trip with Starkville Christian School. She said she learned that the Nina was the ship Columbus rode on.
“You walk up a plank and down into the boats,” Smith said. “On the Pinta, you get to go on the upper deck and look.”
Stephen Sanger, the first mate on the Pinta, said visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about Christopher Columbus and what life was like aboard a common trading vessel 500 years ago.
The replica ships are a project that began in 1988 by American engineer and maritime historian, John Patrick Sarsfield, began building the first replica of a 15th Century Caravel.
Through Sarasfield’s research, he found a group of master ship builders from Bahia, Brazil who used the design and construction techniques dating back to the 15th Century.
Sanger said these shipbuilders, using only adzes, axes, hand saws and chisels, built the Nina with naturally shaped timbers from the Brazilian forest. He said it took 20 men 32 months to build the Nina.
On board the Nina, the “life boat” was hand-built by a 14 year old Brazilian boy who was learning the trade from family members.
The sails for the Nina were produced by Jonathan Nance, a British maritime historian and main researcher for the ship.
According to Sanger, the Nina has been touring the western hemisphere for 20 years.
And for the past four years, the Pinta has been part of the special tour. The Pinta was built by the same master shipbuilders in the same ship yard in Brazil.
Another often asked question is “where is the Santa Maria?”
Sanger explained that these ships were built as historic replicas. He said the Nina and the Pinta could dock in eight feet of water. A historically correct Santa Maria would need a lot more water for docking. At this time, Sanger said there are no plans for adding the Santa Maria to the tour.
The crew of the Nina and the Pinta sail the ships to all of the ports along the tour. Crews live and work on the ships as they sail around the western hemisphere teaching visitors about Christopher Columbus.
And while these are replica ships, the crew’s quarters feature a few modern conveniences of air conditioning and refrigeration for long periods at sea. A galley with a stove and cookware also make life for the crew a little easier. These areas of the ships are not for public viewing, and do not take away from the historic accuracy of the vessels.
The only modern conveniences in the public areas of the ship are the flat screen televisions showing videos of the construction of the ships.
The floating museums feature artifacts and information about everything from the cannons to the rudder — there is no “wheel” to direct the ship.
Display cases feature tools and other items that would have been used to either build the ship or used as part of the day-to-day workings of the ship.
Items are labeled throughout both ships to allow for a slow self-guided tour, and crew members are available to answer questions, like “why are the ships black?”
Vic Bickel with the Nina and Pinta tour said Golden Triangle residents have all had excited positive comments about the tour.
“People can’t believe the size of the ships,” Bickel said. “They all think they should be bigger.”
Bickel said on the first day of the tour in Columbus, between 1,500 and 1,600 stopped by for a self-guided or personal tour of the ships.
For more information about the Nina and Pinta tour, go to http://www.thenina.com  or take Wilkins-Wise Road in Columbus, drive a few miles to take a right on Marina Road. Drive 1/2 mile and turn to the right to find the Nina and the Pinta docked for the tour.