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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Aboard the past

  • The crew of the Pinta and the Nina are making the best out of interrupted plans.
    Hannibal was just going to be one of the many river towns the two floating museums would pass on their Mississippi River excursion. But thanks to Mother Nature and the high waters of the nation's longest waterway, America's Hometown is the best place to dock and wait for the water to recede.
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  • The crew of the Pinta and the Nina are making the best out of interrupted plans.
    Hannibal was just going to be one of the many river towns the two floating museums would pass on their Mississippi River excursion. But thanks to Mother Nature and the high waters of the nation's longest waterway, America's Hometown is the best place to dock and wait for the water to recede.
    Waiting became the initial plan, but as tourists and locals came out to view the massive Christopher Columbus replica ships, cast and crew began letting folks aboard.
    The Nina is 65 feet long and 18 feet across at the beam. The Pinta is 85 feet long and 24 feet at the beam.
    "What makes both ships special is our draft, which is the base of the ship, from he waterline down. We need seven feet (of water), we can keep going," Vic Bickel, alternate captain and first mate, said. "That's why Columbus liked these ships very much. They're fast, very agile. You can take them into harbors, new bays. These are the kind of ships to take there because they'll take you in and take you back out."
    Both ships are just about full replicas, with the exceptions of motors and crew chambers below the deck.
    It's nothing fancy, just cots and beds built into the wall. The only privacy is a curtain.
    But there is a full kitchen, a flat screen TV in both ships. Since the Nina is smaller, it clings to authenticity as best as it can, so there's no air conditioning and no socializing area to spread out like there is on the Pinta.
    "It's like a long camping trip in a very small general area," Bickel said.
    A routine route for the ships is the Great Loop which is the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, around the Florida coast, up the East Coast and into New York, then across the Great Lakes and back to the Mississippi.
    Sounds like quite the ride, doesn't it?
    There are stops along the way, of course, not to mention time to take out the masts and gather the two miles of line on each ship. This makes it possible for the ships to pass through canals and beneath some bridges.
    "Everything is removable," Bickel said. "We have cranes come in."
    The masts are laid the length of the ship at the Erie Canal and then re-installed for the trip through the Great Lakes and then taken down again as the trip proceeds through the Illinois industrial canal.
    Both the Pinta and Nina are open for tours during their Hannibal stay through Sunday. They are docked near the Mark Twain Riverboat's alternate flood site along Bridge Street.
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