* What: Tours of the Columbus sailing replicas Pinta and Nina.
* When: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 10-20.
* Where: Chattanooga Pier at Ross's Landing, 201 Riverfront Parkway.
* Admission: $8 adults, $7 seniors, $6 students 5-16.
* Note: Thirty-minute guided tours for schoolchildren or other groups may be arranged by calling 787-672-2152, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting www.thenina.com. Minimum of 15, no maximum. $5 per person.
Senior Capt. Morgan Sanger knows before the Nina and Pinta replica caravels dock what visitors will say upon seeing the ships.
"The first thing people always say is how small the vessels appear, but they are used to seeing such ships on TV with Errol Flynn swinging around," he says. "The second thing is how brave and desperate these people were to get away from tyranny to have traveled as they did."
That second observation usually leads to a teaching moment for visitors, including the many groups of schoolchildren who see the ships.
Both ships will be docked at Chattanooga Pier today, Oct. 10, through Sunday, Oct. 20. They'll depart early Monday morning, Oct. 21, for stops in Lenoir City, Tenn., and Knoxville before docking in Guntersville, Ala., Nov. 8-17. While in port, the ships will be open for walk-aboard, self-guided tours.
Sanger has been with the Columbus Foundation since its creation in 1986 and was involved with the building of the ships in Brazil. The Nina was completed in 1991, and the Pinta first sailed in 2006.
"It's a fascinating job, and you certainly never get bored," he says. "Building them was a tremendous experience -- and getting them out of Brazil with the politics and the handshake deals, but that's another story."
The Nina was built by hand without the use of power tools. Archaeology magazine called the ship "the most historically correct Columbus replica ever built." The Pinta is a larger version of the archetypal caravel.
Historians consider the caravel the space shuttle of the 15th century, according to a news release.
According to Sanger, it takes a crew of five, plus a captain, to operate the ships. It takes about a half-hour to ready them for sailing, and they can run around the clock when under sail.
Both ships tour together as a "sailing museum" to educate the public about caravels, Portuguese ships used by Columbus and many early explorers to discover the world.
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.