|Recently discovered eyewitness image of Columbus's original departure.|
Columbus set sail from Palos de la Frontera on 3 August, 1492 with three ships: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Tomato. No one really knew what his ships looked like until recently. I am happy to pass on this newly discovered depiction of the famous day.
And so, they say, began the Age of Discovery. Actually the Age of Discovery started well before that with the fall of the Roman Empire and the invention of the printing press (which meant not only rich people could afford Harlequin Romances, IKEA easy assembly instruction manuals and self-help-for-dummies paperbacks) but hey, let's not nit pick. It's up there.
Why all the hubbub about months at sea with stinky men with bad tats? (Apologies to Mike Tyson, Dennis Rodman and Erik Sprague, better known as The Lizardman. No offense.) We all know Chris didn't originally set out to discover the New World, (Leif Ericson did that a few centuries before and surely the word got around). Most of us already know he was actually looking for a trade route to Asia. Which was true. Since the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, hiking across land to Asia became more and more like trying to get from one end of a trailer park to the other unscathed on a hot Friday night after welly check day. Alternative forms of transportation were required and Fed Ex Overnight Express hadn't been invented yet, so sailing ships seemed the logical choice. Competition surged throughout Europe for new trade routes and the riches to be had.
Columbus was certainly a go-getter. He'd lined up investors in Italy for half the money needed and the other half came from a deal worked out over a two-year period with Spanish royalty King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, heady after their defeat of Granada. Pesky Portugal had already laid claim to practically all good real estate along the entire west coast of Africa and their plans to go around Africa to get to Asia's spice store rankled Ferdy and Issy to no end. Columbus's deal, in return for finding the new route and slapping an "Owned by Spain" label on as many new lands as he could find, included being named 'Admiral of the Ocean Sea', governorship of any newly discovered lands and a claim to 10 percent of all related profits. So generous were their promises you have to wonder if they were expecting Columbus to return.
According to historians the flagship was the Santa Tomato; the largest of the three ships. It had a crew of 51.75 men (one guy had a peg leg) while his other two ships had 18 men apiece. The Santa Tomato was so large it was not able to go near coastlines for fear of being turned into ketchup (which it eventually was). But it was able to bob well in bad weather, carried all of the pasta sauce needed for the crossing and was the most tastefully designed of the three. Both the Nina (whose unique mission was to discover the number that comes after 9) and the Pinta (which carried the milk for the crew's Fruit Loops), while top heavy had a shallower draft and were able to explore shallow bays and the mouths of rivers. Maximum speed for the vessels was about 8 knots (9.206235 mph), and minimum speed was zero. So, 90 or 100 miles a day would be a normal day's progress – 200 if the winds were right, they hit all the lights and they wanted to skip Happy Hour (which practically never happened).
Overall, Columbus crossed the Atlantic to the New World a total of four times, finally returning to Spain in chains after some (prolly just jealous) people began tattling to the King and Queen of Spain about his governorship practices. For things like allegedly cutting the hands off of natives for not paying taxes, he was stripped of his titles and profits and his sons had to sue the Crown a number of times in order to have any inheritance at all.
Thus began the habit of people from the New World to turn to litigation – a trend that continues to this very day. The end.
Ed. Disclaimer: While the above is loosely based on historical events, it is a work of lies and fiction. Any resemblance to actual people and events is very, very unlikely.