Columbus replica ships dock in Michigan City

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2014-09-03T19:15:00Z2014-09-03T23:19:04ZColumbus replica ships dock in Michigan CityStan Maddux Times
September 03, 2014 7:15 pm  • 

MICHIGAN CITY | Two replicas of ships Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in his historic first trip to the New World docked Wednesday in Michigan City.

Local residents may board the ships to learn more about the history of the Nina and Pinta along with the 1492 voyage of Columbus.

The ships were constructed using Brazilian hardwoods in the late 1980s and dock in at least 30 communities each year along the Atlantic Coast, the Great Lakes and large rivers such as the Mississippi until they reach the Gulf Coast.

The Pinta weighs 80 tons while the Nina has a weight of 37 tons, said Stephen Sanger, captain of the Nina, which came in with seven crew members.

Nine shiphands crew the Pinta.

The mission is to provide a glimpse of the type of ships used in the 1400s, inform the public about Columbus' voyage from Spain to America and raise money for upkeep of the vessels.

"They are considered the most accurate replicas ever constructed," said Sanger, 26, who resides in the Virgin Islands.

The ships arrived at Washington Park after venturing down the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan from Muskegon.

The ships will next travel to the Calumet River, then venture south down the Illinois River to Peoria, Ill.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for people 60 and over and $6 for children 5 to 16.

The ships will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Sunday.

Proceeds are collected by the Columbus Foundation to keep the ships well maintained for the following year's schedule.

The ships will eventually make their way down the Mississippi River for more public tours in cities such as Memphis before anchoring six weeks for maintenance before venturing out for another 10 month season of public tours.

There are no plans to build a Santa Maria, the third ship in Columbus' original flotilla, because a replica would be much too large to navigate the annual route, especially the rivers, said Sanger, a member of the crew for six years.

Unlike Columbus' crew, the replica ships are equipped with modern necessities like propane stoves, refrigerators and microwaves.

All of the food is frozen, purchased from supermarkets for easy preparation.

Laundry is also done after docking in each port.

Vania Williams, 21, of Oklahoma, is taking a break from college to be a member of the crew.

She took a tour of the boats as a child and decided then she wanted to be a shipmate and put down her books five months ago to realize a dream.

"I wanted to travel so I figured this would be a good way to do it," said Williams. "It's far more than what I expected. I love it."

This is the third visit to Michigan City in the last six years by the ships.

Sanger said strong response from the public has a lot to do with keeping Michigan City as a regular stop along with its convenient location on the way toward the Mississippi for tours during the fall.

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