As second-grade students from East Elementary School in McConnelsville "walked the plank" that led to the Nina and the Pinta replica ships moored at Marietta Harbor Friday, they chattered like magpies.
"Wow!" one student exclaimed, looking at the ships.
"Is this a pirate ship?" asked another.
ROBB DECAMP Special to The Times
Replicas of the Nina and Pinta opened for public tours in Marietta Friday.
The question about a pirate ship is nothing new for Capt. Morgan Sanger, senior captain for The Columbus Foundation, a British Virgin Islands-based organization.
"Kids 5 to 7 years old are looking for pirates and all kinds of things associated with the good old days of pirating," Sanger said.
As the McConnelsville youngsters toured both replica ships, which arrived at Marietta Harbor Thursday and will be open to numerous school groups and self-guided tours by the public through Oct. 21, another group of students and clusters of area residents could be seen on the walkway waiting to board the ships.
If you go:
What: Tours of the Nina and the Pinta ships.
When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 21.
Where: Marietta Harbor, west end of Butler Street.
Admission: $8 adults; $7 seniors over 60; $6 students 5 to 16; free for children under 4.
Tour guide and deckhand Kathy Thompson was there to straighten out any of the misconceptions the group of 52 children had-and to praise them when they knew a bit of trivia about Christopher Columbus, Queen Isabella of Spain and the two ships.
Before coming on board the ships, the second graders had studied these topics.
"We read a poem and decided what Christopher Columbus would have been like," said Lesley Mansfield, a second grade teacher at East Elementary School.
"(The children decided) he was brave, he followed his dreams and he never gave up even when his crew wanted to turn around," she said.
Columbus was on a quest to find gold and spices in the Indies. He did find land, but not where he expected.
"He always insisted he made it to the Indies," Thompson told students.
The second graders did know their ship lingo.
"Where's the crow's nest?" asked Josh Kuntz, 7, of McConnelsville.
Thompson explained that neither the Nina or the Pinta had a crow's nest, that the Santa Maria did-but it sank.
Lots of titters, giggles and snickers filled the air when Thompson showed the students the "poop deck."
Translated, the poop deck means the "doll deck"-a place where the sailors carved dolls of their favorite saints which were then blessed by the ship's priest, Thompson said.
Peering down into the Nina's hold where food, extra gear, water and animals would have been stored, Thompson asked if anyone had tasted rabbit stew.
A few children answered "Yes."
The area below deck that would have been Columbus' quarters was covered with a gridded "hatch" that students could look down into.
"Is that a jail?" asked Tristen Butcher of McConnelsville.
The quarters was a small cabin with two bunks that was just four feet tall and had no ventilation except for the hatch opening.
"It was the only private space Christopher Columbus had," said Thompson.
For Odessa Smith, 7, of McConnelsville, the captain's quarters was one of his favorite places on the tour.
"I liked the downstairs cabin (captain's quarters) and I liked the costume the man ('Christopher Columbus') was wearing," he said.
James A. Weaver, 7, of McConnelsville, was most interested in the jar of pine tar he and others got to smell.
Pine tar was used as a wood preservative by the Scandinavian nations. Columbus used it on the ships' decking and rigging.
"It kind of smelled like barbecue sauce," Weaver said.
Sanger said he and the crew enjoy their tour stops in the nation's midsection.
"The Midwest is one of our best places for school tours because the kids are polite and want to focus on (the replica ships) they're standing on," said Sanger.
The tour promises to be an unforgettable experience for students.
"They're gonna remember it for the rest of their lives because there's nothing else like it," Sanger said.