History sets sail on the James

Posted at 7:39 PM, May 24, 2012
and last updated 2012-05-29 07:33:23-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Two floating classrooms sailed up the James River Thursday afternoon and dropped anchor at Rockett’s Landing for an extended stay.

“Here we have two replicas of Columbus’ ships the Nina and the Pinta,” said First Mate Stephen Sanger, who lives on board with fourteen other crew members.

“When people see the ships they’re just like ‘Oh my God what is this coming up the River here.' The majority of people are just shell shocked. These ships are very round bottom. Very top heavy so they bob like a cork.”

Stephen and his ship mates are opening their interactive museums to the public after sailing 2800 miles from Louisiana.

“Back in Columbus’ day you had about 30 people living on top of the deck," said Stephen. "The average age was about 16 years old.”

Captain Morgan Sanger, Stephen’s father, has been sailing the western hemisphere on the Nina for two decades. He helped design and build the ship twenty years ago.

The Nina is a replica of the ship on which Columbus sailed across the Atlantic on his three voyages of discovery to the new world beginning in 1492. Columbus sailed the tiny ship over 25,000 miles. That ship was last heard of in 1501, but the new Niña has a different mission.

“Well we just did the distance between Washington DC and San Francisco in 15 days,” the captain said. “We still use the old techniques in navigation.”

The Captain and his crew pull into foreign ports to shed light on Columbus’ exploration of the new world.

Wide eyed Richmonders are soaking up the rare sight.

Pat Jones from Richmond watched as the two ships dropped anchor at Rockett’s.

"It is fantastic," said Jones. "This is something like you see from the movies. You don’t get to see something like this in Richmond.”

It's a weeklong opportunity for lesson you can’t learn in a text book.

The Nina and Pinta will be docked at Rockett’s Landing through June 3. The ships will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Admission is $8 for adults $7 for seniors and $6 for students ages 5 to 16. Children 4 and under are free.