Recreating the Voyage of Christopher Columbus

In 1962, a group of adventurers decided to recreate a voyage from the Canaries to San Salvador undertaken 470 years earlier by Christopher Columbus on the Nina, with “no motor, no radio, no modern lifesaving equipment, no provisions except roughly the same as Columbus had carried.” The trip took Columbus 36 days. More than 36 days after the Nina II set sail, a search and rescue unit located the ship and dropped in fresh supplies. They eventually made it to their destination, but with much more help than Columbus had available.

A team from the Post’s editorial staff boarded the Niña II to document their compromised voyage.

In “We Sailed the Columbus Ship” pilot-navigator Robert Marx recounts the challenges the crew faced: severe shortages of food and water, chronic leaks in the hull, a broken rudder, and hurricanes. For three months, the crew fought the sea until exhausted, trying to keep the balky ship on course, and expecting to die. Ultimately, though, the crew determinedly sailed the Niña II into the San Salvador harbor late on Christmas Eve. It’s likely the closest modern sailors had come to experiencing the conditions, the determination, and the incredible amount of luck that was needed to cross an ocean 500 years ago.

Cover of the January 26, 1963 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, featuring the recreated vessel Niña in open seas.
Click to read “We Sailed the Columbus Ship” from the January 26, 1963, issue of the Post.