JOLIET – The Nina and the Pinta, two of the ships that sailed the ocean blue with Columbus in 1492, will be in Joliet at about 7 p.m. tonight.
Or, replicas of the ships will be here.
The Columbus Foundation, which takes the two ships described as sailing museums around the country and beyond, plans to dock for the night on the Des Plaines River approximately at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park in downtown Joliet.
The park is located at 201 W. Jefferson Street on the west back of the Des Plaines River.
It's an unusual opportunity for local people to see the two ships, called caravels, that have been through Joliet before but only late at night.
"We'll be there before dark, so you'll be able to see them," said Jamie Durant, a deck hand on the ships. "Most of the time when we go through Joliet, we end up getting there at 10 p.m."
It's a chance to see the same kind of caravels that were part of Columbus's fleet in an unprecedented journey across the Atlantic Ocean to a New World.
The Columbus Foundation does not have a "Santa Maria," the third ship in Columbus's exploration, because it's draft at 12 to 14 feet was too deep to be used on rivers, Durant said.
The Nina and Pinta have drafts of 7 to 7.5 feet, and even at that it gets close at times.
"We just passed under a bridge in downtown Chicago by 6 inches," Durant said Tuesday afternoon.
The masts will be down when the caravels dock in Joliet, because they need to be lowered for the lower bridges along the Illinois River System. The ships are travelling downriver from Chicago by motor.
But it will still be an opportunity to see what Durant called "the Space Shuttles of the time back then. They were the fastest boats."
People will not be able to board the boats in Joliet.
The next stop for boarding for the general public will be in Peoria. The ships will be docked at 110 Southwest Water St. on Friday through Sept. 25.
The "Nina" and "Pinta" had just been in South Haven, Michigan for 10 days before crossing Lake Michigan to enter the Illinois River System on a journey that will take them as far west as Tulsa, Oklahoma. Eventually, the ships will return to the home base in Mobile, Alabama.