KITTERY, Maine — Colin Sarsfield revisited a piece of history Monday that holds significant meaning for his family.
When the replicas of Christopher Columbus’ ships the Nina and Pinta sailed into Badgers Island Marina, Colin and his mother, Virginia Sarsfield, were also seeing the work and ingenuity of father and husband John Sarsfield.
Sarsfield, who developed the idea for the replication project in 1988, helped design and build the Nina in Brazil. He died in 1990, one year before construction was complete.
“He loved the country and would always go back,” said Virginia, who had been a Peace Corps volunteer with John in Brazil.
She and Colin remained in the states while John worked on the replica project in Brazil. Colin said he remembers visiting his father during that time and had always been interested in ships because of that exposure.
Colin was able to be a crew member on the Nina 18 years ago.
Small compared to modern day seafaring vessels, the Nina and Pinta boast historically accurate design and components right down to the size. Both a style of ship called Caravel, they were built authentically in the manner by which they would have been constructed before Columbus captained them across the Atlantic in 1492.
“It’s really important that they’re built with the techniques of Columbus’ day,” Virginia said.
Capt. Kyle Friauf, who had brought the Nina up to Maine from Norwich, Conn., said research for construction of the Nina began in 1986, the first planks were laid in 1988 and it was commissioned in 1991.
It took three years and 20 men to complete the ship. It was constructed without using any electricity in a boatyard in Brazil by Portuguese immigrants.
Since being commissioned, the Nina has been traveling around the world’s waters. “She’s become a bit of a floating museum,” Friauf, of Florida, said.
The Pinta, which was sailed up to Maine by Capt. Joe Hopkins, was built in 2006 in the same Brazilian boatyard but using slightly more modern day methods. The Pinta is quite a bit larger than the Nina.
Both ships are black — painted with pine tar pitch to seal out moisture just as was done in the 1400s.
The ships started sailing together in 2010. They’re built using a method called Mediterranean whole-moulding, which Senior Capt. Morgan Sangers described as “an archaic method of ship building before paper drawings.”
He said the design comes “from the mind of the ship writer.”
Friauf said the comment he hears most from the public upon seeing the ships is about how small they are. In a “supersized” world, he said, people find it difficult to imagine sailing across the Atlantic in these ships.
But the Caravel is a type of ship used in many of the first voyages by explorers such as Amerigo Vespucci and Ferdinand Magellan. Design for these ships comes from studying underwater wreckage.
“They’re very seaworthy,” Friauf said, explaining they resemble a Viking boat in design. The ships are owned by the Columbus Foundation.
The ships are open to the general public today. While in port, the public is invited to visit the ships for a walk-aboard, self-guided tour. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $6 for children 5 through 16. Children 4 and under are free. The ships are open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. No reservations are necessary. Teachers or organizations wishing to schedule a 30-minute guided tour with a crew member should call 1-787-672-2152 and leave a message. Minimum of 15 at $4 per person, with no maximum. Visit the website at www.thenina.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.