She was Columbus’ wickedly thrilling gal.


I stand on the sloping deck of the Niña, the truest replica ever built. It was Columbus’ favorite ship, the one he very nearly died on in 1493.

She’s here ~ in the head-turning Stuart Harbor at the North Fork of the  St. Lucie River.rockers web

The ship was named Santa Clara after the patron saint of Moguer. But in those days, a Spanish vessel also had a nickname, usually the feminine form of her master’s home port. Santa Clara was always known as Niña, after her master-owner Juan Niño of Moguer.

In the late eighties, American engineer and maritime historian John Patrick Sarsfield found a group of master shipbuilders in Bahia, Brazil who were still using design and construction techniques dating back to the 15th Century. Using only adzes, axes, hand saws, and chisels, they built NiñaNary a pile-driving power tool in sight.

When I stand on the spic-and-span deck, music expands and swells in my memory. ( Star Clipper ships always set sail to the soundtrack for “Conquest of Paradise, 1492”. It’s magical.)


In 1991, The Niña left Brazil and sailed to Costa Rica on a 4,000 mile unescorted maiden voyage to take part in the filming.


Since then, the ship has visited over 300 ports in the U.S. She is the only ‘sailing museum’ that is continually ‘discovering’ new ports.

Columbus, that enigmatic and flawed human being, for good or ill, altered the course of history.

Hey Sailor, this story isn’t over. The Pinta and Niña are always looking for new crew members. One crew member I met was from Pennsylvania and had been aboard the Pinta for about 9 months and another had only been on for a few weeks. For a complete history and tour schedule or, if you want to change the course of your life, apply as a crew member at www.thenina.com.


Toni 3/3/14