Top view of Nao Santa Maria in Beaufort

Piloting a Historic Replica

By Howard Heckrotte with Douglas Nelson

Photos by Bob Corso

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources 25-foot twin-engine fast boat propelled us through rain and 3- to 4-foot seas at over 35 knots for a rendezvous with the Santa Maria. The North Atlantic waves pitched and yawed the two vessels. When a higher wave materialized, the 25-footer went into thin air, engines over-revving before thudding back into a trough, testing knee and shoulder sinews as white knuckles gripped the center-console grab rail.

The DNR officer smiled thinly and throttled back a bit, continuing a course to our rendezvous point, unseen in the rain and light fog but somewhere a few miles ahead. I was wondering how the boarding would take place when the ship’s profile appeared out of the sea mist, looking daunting.

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