Originally scheduled to dock in port at 11 a.m. on Aug. 28, the ships made an early arrival the previous evening when the captain became wary because of the closing of the Kentucky Dam Lock.
“We spent six hours locking through near Paducah,” Captain Stephen Sanger reported, “and we were worried about how much more traffic would be attempting to pass through Barkley, so we just sailed early.”
That decision came as a surprise to startled Lyon County residents who live along the eastern shoreline of the Cumberland River. Even though the Nina passes this way during her yearly tour, it is not often that local residents can be in the right place at the right time to see two replicas of 15th century sailing vessels following the winds amidst the 21st century barges on their way to market.
With the early departure for the Lake Barkley area, the ships arrived in the Grand Rivers port on Tuesday night. They slipped out of port at daybreak and sailed up and down the river for a more relaxing cruise, in order to return to the port at the appointed time, as they knew that crowds of visitors would be awaiting the publicized arrival. The ships always arrive with a volley of shots fired over the port bow (in friendly greeting), although more than one local craft has been known to throw its engines into reverse after seeing the sailing vessel bearing down the channel toward the dock.
The two replicas are the most historically accurate ships of Columbus that were ever constructed. Columbus sailed the original Nina, a very tiny ship, more than 25,000 miles, and it was last heard of in 1501; however, today’s replica serves as a floating museum and visits ports throughout the western hemisphere. The Pinta was recently constructed in Brazil to accompany the Nina. She is larger than the Nina and offers deck space for walk-aboard tours. She also has a 40-foot air-conditioned main cabin down below with seating. For tours, there is a small video screen hidden behind the planking to show visitors the various stages of her construction.
The Nina is a movie star in her own right. In December 1991, the Nina left Brazil and sailed to Costa Rica on a 4,000-mile unescorted maiden voyage to take part in the filming of “1492.” Since then, the ship has visited more than 300 ports in the U.S.
Area residents are in for an extended opportunity to visit the ships and the ship’s store until Sunday, as the ships will not depart Green Turtle Bay until daybreak on Monday.
Even with the extremely hot weather during the Labor Day weekend, the crowds stood in line patiently, awaiting their turn to board. With cooler weather for the duration of the week and fewer tourists in the area, local residents may take their time to see the ships and ask questions of the captain and the ship’s crew.
Admission is $8 for adults; $7 for Seniors; $6 for students 5 to 16, and those 4 will be admitted free. No reservations are necessary; the ships will be open for daily tours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Even if one does not want to go aboard, it is an uunusual opportunity to see them docked amidst the modern craft in the port and an unusual opportunity for photographers.