Models in Bottles

Building ships in bottles from scratch

June 27, 2016

The Niña and Pinta

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I don't know what it is, but I love the look of old sailing ships--that's why I like building ships in bottles so much, and it's probably why you're here reading about building ships in bottles. Unfortunately, I live in Iowa so I've never actually seen an old style sailing ship...until now! For Father's Day my wife and daughter were looking for something fun for us to do and they found that the Niña and Pinta were sailing up the Mississippi river and would be an hour away from our house.

These two ships were commissioned in the late 1980's by the Columbus Foundation and are easily the most realistic replicas of Columbus's ships ever built. For $8 you can walk on board and talk with the staff who will be happy to answer all of your questions. You can read more about the Columbus Foundation and their ships. You can even volunteer to work aboard these ships for a minimum 3-4 week commitment. Man that would be something.

Keep an eye out, since they travel the eastern US river system, it's a great way for landlocked people to finally set their eyes on a legit-ass sailing ship! My advice: take tons of pictures. Being able to walk around the ships I was able to see angles I've never seen before and I was able to take note of details that will help me in future builds. For example, I didn't realize the deck is inclined so highly at the bow and I'm not sure I ever would have realized that without standing on it myself. My ships in bottles will definitely be impacted by this experience, especially in the realms of details and realism (which is probably 90% of modeling anyway).

I'm not carrying a purse. Two year old children require a bag. This is the Niña. Thumbs up dude.

The Niña front right
The Niña again

The Pinta broadside
The Pinta, larger of the two. This one was built slightly larger than reality.

The Pinta rigging
Look at all that rigging. Pinta from the upper deck.

We should probably talk about models since that's kind of the point of this website. Fun fact: in the 1490's it was hard to find a shipwright who was literate so the "blueprints" they used were actually models.

The Niña model blueprint
Model serving as a blueprint for Niña. Built by a 15 year old Brazilian kid.

Santa Maria model onboard the Pinta
What about the Santa Maria? They had a detailed model of it on the Pinta.

I realize this post isn't strictly about building model ships in bottles, but it was such a unique experience for an Iowan that I figured I should share it. I've heard enough from some followers on my Instagram to know that I'm not the only landlocked sucker who would love to see a ship like this but assumes they'll never get the chance. Be sure to check out the Columbus Foundation's website about these ships and see where they'll be going next, maybe you'll get lucky!