What if Christopher Columbus had to find an additional source of revenue to help finance his historic voyage? Queen Isabella was certainly low on funds after the Spanish war with the Muslims ended in 1492. Columbus might have resorted to taking on paying passengers aboard the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. But how could he persuade anyone to embark on such a perilous trip?
“You will be on my flagship, the Santa Maria, and you will dine at the captain’s table,” he would begin. “We will be cruising to the exotic East Indies and later on to the Orient, a wonderfully enchanted land rich in silks, spices and gold.”
A skeptical landlubber would have done some research beforehand. “Captain, I’ve been talking to your crew members. Half of them are convinced you’ll sail off the edge of the earth, and those are the optimists. The others think all three ships will be devoured by sea monsters before you even reach the edge.”
Columbus would laugh and reply that sailors are known to be wildly superstitious and shouldn’t be taken seriously. “There is no edge,” he’d say. “The earth is as round as the moon and I’m sure the ships up there are ranging freely as we are about to do.”
“But it doesn’t look like a luxury cruise, Captain. We’d like celebrity entertainers, staterooms with verandas, shufffleboard and sumptuous buffets. What kind of food will be served at the captain’s table?”
“You will be feasting on the catch of the day and an occasional sauteed seagull. Delectable sides will include a mouth-watering selection of bully beef patties and delicately spiced hard tack. Our chef has sailed with the English so there will be an open bar every evening with a rum cocktail hour and deep fried something or others.
“If you have any doubts about any aspect of the cruise,” Columbus will add, “you can sign up with our New World Trip Policy which covers sea monster attacks, mutinies, shipwrecks and scurvy.”
The insurance plan would have been a good idea. The flotilla eventually experienced the threat, at least, of all of the above except the sea monsters. Columbus, the “Admiral of the Ocean Seas” was navigating with only a compass. The ship’s “clock” was a sandglass timer that had to be inverted promptly when it emptied. Thinking the earth was much smaller than it is, he was convinced his four voyages ended at the edge of the East Indies which were actually thousands of miles further on. He’d reached the West Indies.
On the plus side, his paying passengers would not have experienced boarding pass delays or long security lines with shoe removals and X-rays before embarking in Palos, Spain and no passport or custom inspections after landing.
There would have been no rental car mix-ups or lost luggage unless there wasn’t time to rescue some when the Santa Maria sank off Hispaniola on Christmas Day, 1492. Remains of what may be the Santa Maria were discovered in 2003. Identification has yet to be confirmed, but many artifacts, including an ancient cannon, are encouraging evidence. There were no traces of verandas or shuffleboard discs in the wreckage.