The original Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria used by Columbus on his first voyage across the Atlantic were common trading vessels. The Niña was a caravel, a type commonly used during the Age of Discovery. The Niña came with Columbus on his second voyage and served in the advance guard of Columbus's third voyage. Niña logged at least 25,000 miles under Columbus's command.
In 1988 an American engineer and maritime historian, John Sarsfield, began building what was to become the first truly historically correct replica of a 15th century caravel. He had discovered a group of master shipbuilders in Bahia, Brazil who were still using design and construction techniques dating back to the 15th century. It was in Valenca, Brazil, using only adzes, axes, hand saws and chisels, in addition to naturally-shaped timbers from the local forest that the Sarsfield Niña was built.
Jonathan Nance, a British maritime historian produced a sail plan for the ship.
In December, 1991, the Niña 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 over 250 ports in the U.S.
Niña's overall length is 93.6 feet with a beam of 17.3 feet. The length on deck is only 66 feet and she only draws 7 feet of water. Her displacement is 100 tons (compared to over 40.000 tons of the World War II-era U.S.S. Hornet.) Niña has a sail area of 1,919 feet.
What amazes "Louis" is how small this ship is, leading him to be more amazed that these ships traveled so far. Equally amazing is the very, very spartan living conditions on the ship. Actually, spartan is a luxurious description given the real conditions on these vessels. However, this Niña has three things Columbus's Niña did not: a small diesel engine driving a screw for those times when Niña needs a little extra push, a microwave and a GPS system.
Columbus had a difficult time getting the Spanish court's attention for financing his first voyage: the court was preoccupied with fighting off Islam. Today is 11 September. Let us not forget.