August 13, 2014 at 7:09 am

Niña, Pinta replicas arrive for Downriver exploring

Wyandotte — They’re masts from the past.

Replicas of the Niña and the Pinta, two of the three ships Christopher Columbus commanded when he sailed the ocean blue in 1492, are docked at the city of Wyandotte’s Bishop Park through Sunday.

The two ships arrived at about 4 p.m. Tuesday, just before a rainstorm doused the area. Each announced its arrival with a single shot from the canons and then pulled alongside the long wooden pier that runs parallel to Jefferson Avenue.

A couple dozen people watched the vessels dock.

Chris Thomson, 66, of Brownstown Township said she wanted to see the vessels up close because she’s interested in the ships’ history.

“I’m surprised at how small they are,” Thomson said. “Coming across the ocean in a ship that size must have been daunting.”

Historically accurate reproductions, the ships serve as floating museums and are operated by the Columbus Foundation. The Niña is about 70 feet long and her bigger sister, the Pinta, is about 90 feet long.

Thomson said she plans to come back to take a tour on board the ships.

Starting Wednesday, they will be open for public tours through Sunday. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Their Metro Detroit stop is the only one the ships are making on this side of the state before sailing to the Lake Michigan coast.

Opportunity Grosse Ile, a nonprofit organization that educates people about life on the island community, and the city of Wyandotte are hosting the visit.

The two also sponsored the ships’ visit to Wyandotte in 2012. More than 6,000 people climbed aboard the ships during their Downriver visit two years ago.

“It’s really about Downriver,” said Craig Pilkington with Opportunity Grosse Ile during a preview event for the media. “There are a lot of misconceptions about Downriver — people think there’s a lot of industrial pollution and nothing but smokestacks.

He said the area has a rich history, and water and the international wildlife refuge.

He also said it’s a great, hands-on educational opportunity for school-age children who have or will be studying Columbus.

Based in the British Virgin Islands, the Columbus Foundation educates the public about the caravel, the type of ship Columbus was on when he explored the New World.

The foundation doesn’t have a sea-going replica of Columbus’ third ship, a carrick or nau known as the Santa Maria, because its size wouldn’t allow it to travel places the smaller Niña and Pinta can go.

Tours cost $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $6 for children ages 5-16. Children 4 and younger are free.

“This is our second visit to Wyandotte and it’s good to be back,” said Steve Sanger, the Niña’s captain. “We’re here and we’re excited to be open.”
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A replica of a ship used by Christopher Columbus, the Pinta, sail to docks ... (Bryan Mitchell / Special to The Detroit News)
Replicas of the ships used by Christopher Columbus, the Pinta, left, and ... (Bryan Mitchell / Special to The Detroit News)