Replica of Nina floats into Demopolis

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 6, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-Boaters who saw The Nina winding through the waters of the Tombigbee River probably had to do a double take. After all, it is not often you encounter a replica of a fifteenth century vessel in the Alabama River system.

Fortunately, in Demopolis, people will have the pleasure of giving the ship a closer inspection than passers by. The Nina will be docked at the Yacht Basin for the rest of the weekend giving visitors a historic look at the type of vessel Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World all those years ago.

Through the years crewmember Doc Kaiser and his mates have visited many ports all over the world. Kaiser said the whole thing started back in 1991 on shaky footing.

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“This is our fourteenth year,” Kaiser said. “The whole thing started when they were building the ship in 1986 and they were trying to get funding to build a replica. The construction started in 1988 and in 1991 the funding ran out.”

However, a major motion picture came to the rescue and completed the ship. Kaiser said they were very excited when an offer came to finish the ships construction.

“Paramount Pictures was filming a movie called 1492 and they had heard about the ship,” Kaiser said. “They had heard about the ship and they contacted the foundation and said they would like to pay for the completion of the construction of the ship.”

The historic film inspired the crewmen to take to the waters and let the rest of the world enjoy the ship in person.

“That is essentially where we got the idea to take it on tour,” Kaiser said. “We spent a few winters in Mexico and two winters in the Cayman Islands and after that we had about 450 different ports.”

Since launching in 1991 the crew has traveled 250,000 miles including the Atlantic Ocean Pacific Ocean and all points in between. The crew, the history and the chance to relive history all make the ship a great place to visit when it cruises into town.

On the ships website,, Nina crewmember John Malcolm cited three major reasons to visit the ship.

One, to see a near perfect example of a type of sailing ship-the caravel- of such clean, sculptured, honest design that it was produced for upwards of 125 years. with its Scandinavian style bow and midsection and its combination square and lateen rigging it was probably the best open water sailing vessel of its time- that pivotal time referred to as the ‘ Great Age of Discovery’.

Two, in some small way to enter that age, to perhaps get a feeling for Columbus himself, that enigmatic and flawed human being, who, admire or despise him, is one of perhaps only three individuals in all of our long past who, by themselves, for good or ill, personally altered the course of Western history.

Three, to stand on the sloping deck of the Nina, as true a replica as will probably ever be built. It was Columbus’ favorite ship, the one he very nearly died on in 1493, upon which he ultimately logged more than 25,000 miles.

The ship will be docked at the Yacht Basin for only two more days. Kaiser said the ship would be in town today and Sunday and would be open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. before departing Monday.