By Lauren Tjaden

Have you ever imagined what it was like for the explorers who set out for the New World with Columbus?

Pretend you are one of them.

When you climb into your appallingly small ship, you don’t really know where you’re going. You may end up in a land with people like you’ve never seen before, people who speak strange languages. The people might befriend you or lop off your head instead.

You may end up rich or you may starve, or you may end up at the bottom of the ocean providing fodder for the fish. For all you know, you may just sail off the end of the world, it being flat and all.

You can snag a glimpse of what it was like for the explorers from now until Jan. 1, 2012, when you visit the Nina and Pinta Ship Replicas in the Floating Museum in Punta Gorda (Fishermen’s Village Yacht Basin, 1200 W. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda, FL).

History will really come alive for you when you climb aboard these near-perfect examples of the ships used by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The vessels are operated by the Columbus Foundation, located in the British Virgin Islands – and they are fabulous with a capital F! In fact, Archeology Magazine called the Nina the “most authentic replica Columbus-era ship ever built.”

Even better, this blast-from-the-past won’t leave your wallet wailing: Admission is only $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $6 for students ages five to 16. Kids four and under are free!

You can arrange group tours for your club or school by calling 787- 672-2152 or emailing

Cool fact: Both vessels were constructed in Brazil by Portuguese shipwrights using only hand tools and design and construction techniques dating back to the 15th century.