La Niña (Spanish for The Girl) was one of the three Spanish ships used by Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in his first voyage to the West Indies in 1492. As was tradition for Spanish ships of the day, she bore a female saint's name, Santa Clara. However, she was commonly referred to by her nickname, La Niña, which was probably a pun on the name of her owner, Juan Niño of Moguer. She was a standard caravel-type vessel.
The other ships of the Columbus expedition were the caravel-type Pinta and the carrack-type Santa María. The Niña was by far Columbus's favorite. She was originally lateen sail rigged caravela latina, but she was re-rigged as caravela redonda at Azores with square sails for better ocean performance. There is no authentic documentation on the specifics of the Niña's design, although Michele de Cuneo, who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage, mentioned that the Nina was 'about 60 toneladas' (60 tons), which may indicate a medium sized caravel of around 50 feet (15 m) in length on deck. Often said to have had three masts, there is some evidence she may have had four masts.
The Niña, like the Pinta and Santa María, was a smaller trade ship built to sail the Mediterranean sea, not the open ocean. It was greatly surpassed in size by ships like the Peter von Danzig of the Hanseatic League, built in 1462, 51 m (167 ft) in length, and the English carrack Grace Dieu, built during the period 1420–1439, 66.4 m (218 ft) in length and weighing between 1,400 tons and 2,750 tons.
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