Friday, June 11, 2010

The Nina, the Pinta, and the Dragonfly

When we completed our first crossing on Lake Ontario two days ago--plunging through the two-foot waves stirred up by a 15-mph wind--we felt like true adventurers.

Back in Oswego, though, we made a sighting that really puts our voyage on perspective.

There's a little footbridge that takes you high above the canal. I was crossing at dusk and looked down to see what I thought, at first, were two enormous wooden canal boats.  I guessed they might be reconstructions, museum-bound. Through binoculars, though, I could see these were actually wooden sailing ships, with their masts stepped (lowered and tied on deck).

Well, Bill and I are crazy about wooden sailing ships--in the abstract, of course--thanks to the time we have spent reading the novels of Patrick O'Brian.   So we walked down to get a closer look at the real thing.

We discovered that the two boats are replicas of the Nina and the Pinta, yes, that Nina and Pinta,  of Christopher Columbus-and-the "discovery"-of-America fame.  They were hand-built--no power tools--by the Columbus Foundation, an organization in the British Virgin Islands, and they were on their way to Rochester, as a "living history" museum to educate schoolchildren.

These boats are bigger than our canal boat--but not a whole lot bigger.  Like our boat, they are steered with a hand-held tiller. There didn't appear to be much in the way of cabins or creature comforts.  And on the original boats  (not the reproductions, which have hidden diesel engines to pilot them up the canal) there certainly was no GPS or a VHF radio or life vests or the Coast Guard to call if you screwed up.

When we were contemplating the weather on Lake Ontario--and deciding whether it was safe to venture out--I thought about the age of exploration and the people who set out in little wooden ships, with no multicolored nautical charts to tell them where the dangers lay and no idea of what to expect at their destinations.

On the one hand, taking big risks is dangerous.   On the other hand, if you never take the slightest risk, what is your life like?

(Don't worry, Mom, we're not ditching the GPS!)


  1. What a treat! You are still in NYS and have already had such a great trip. Seeing such fun things and wonderful places and meeting great people. What fun you must be having. Bill & you look so happy. Have fun!!
    Aunt Mary

  2. The last picture of the Pinta with the power boat hanging off the back pegs my irony meter at 11. Good luck with your crossing of the big lake.

    I think you mentioned this in an earlier post, but does your GPS fill in with nautical charts? Joe B.

  3. Makes you think a bit about the 16 year old teen who was just rescued in the Ocean...what makes a person take THAT on?

  4. Joe, yes we DO have nautical charts through our special boat GPS, a "chart plotter." more on that to come . ..


  5. Pam:

    Yes, I did think about the girl who was just rescued as I was writing this. On the one hand it's a very daring and audacious thing for a 16-year-old to take on. On the other hand, she had a very significant amt of boating experience despite her young age. If she were 26 instead of 16 and doing this, no one would have blinked.

    Also, because of modern technology, she was rescued.

    I believe that technology makes people more likely to take risks. This girl had skills and knew what she was getting into. But the people who for example need helicopter rescues in the Grand Canyon because they dont know what they are doing and figure a cell phone call will solve everything when they screw up . . . That's a very different world view.

    AND . . back to sailing and exploration: as little as 50 years ago, that technology was not available. . .

    Yet people set out to sea. That's what I ponder!

  6. So the follow up question would be: What did you name this particular GPS?

    About the 16 yr old gir who was rescued, another 16 yr old girl from Aus. recently completed a round the world sail. She is a big hero in her country and apparently, you could follow her journey via web cam.

    I do recall a Nat'l Geo article from our childhood that was recent by an older teen boy who had sailed around the world - although a big part of his story was his stops along the way.