The other ships of the Columbus expedition were the caravel Pinta and the Carrack-type Santa María. The Niña was by far Columbus' 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. Often said to have had three masts, there is some evidence she may have had four masts.
The Niña joined a grand fleet of 17 ships for the second voyage to Hispaniola, becoming the flagship for an exploration of Cuba. She was the only ship to survive the 1495 hurricane, returning quickly to Spain in 1496.
The Niña was then chartered for an unauthorized voyage to Rome. She was captured by a pirate corsair when leaving the port of Cagliari and brought to Cape Pula, Sardinia. The Captain, Alonso Medel, escaped with a few men. He stole a boat, rowed back to Niña, and made sail, returning to Cadiz.
In 1498 she returned to Hispanics as advance guard of Columbus' Third Voyage. She was lying in wait at Santo Domingo in 1500. In 1501 she made a trading voyage to the Pearl Coast and there is no further log of her.
The Niña logged at least under Columbus' command.
A replica of the Niña (based upon theory; there are no known contemporary likenesses of any of the three ships) now sails around the world.
The 4-masted replica Niña was built in 1988 by engineer and naval researcher John Patrick Sarsfield, British naval historian Jonathan Morton Nance, and a group of master shipbuilders in Bahia, Brazila-- who were still using design and construction techniques dating back to the 15th century. They built it from heavy, teredo-resistant Brazilian hardwoods using only adzes, axes, hand saws, and chisels. The sails were designed by Nance using square main sails and two aft lateen sails as were used by ships of this size at the end of the 15th century. The crew of the Niña say that it can make about 5-7 knots, which is quicker than older designs of the era.
In 1991, the replica sailed to Costa Rica to take part in the filming of "1492: Conquest of Paradise", and as of mid-2008, the Niña has visited hundreds of North America ports to give the public a chance to see and tour the ship.