Kalmar Nyckel brings history to Dorcester County

The Kalmar Nyckel was docked at Long Wharf in Cambridge, Maryland over the weekend. Many toured the replica of a 17th-century armed merchant vessel that helped settle the colony of New Sweden in the Delaware Valley in 1638. (Delaware State News/Dave Ryan)

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — Delaware’s tall ship, the Kalmar Nyckel, spent the weekend at Long Wharf, welcoming visitors for tours. The ship is a replica of a vessel that helped settle the colony of New Sweden in the Delaware Valley in 1638.

“We’re keeping alive the lost art of square-rig sailing,” Capt. Sharon Dounce said. “We help people step back in time.”

The original ship, a pinnace, was named after the Swedish city of Kalmar. In the Swedish language, “Nyckel” means “key”.

“The Kalmar Nyckel Foundation is a nonprofit educational organization with a mission of preserving and promoting the cultural and maritime heritage of Delaware and the Delaware Valley for the education and enrichment of all,” the organization’s website says. “The foundation is a volunteer-based organization that built, owns and operates the Tall Ship of Delaware, Kalmar Nyckel.”

The vessel serves as a floating classroom, offering people of all ages a variety of sea- and land-based learning and recreational experiences.

The original ship was built by the Dutch in 1625, and sailed for the New World to trade for beaver pelts with the Lenape tribe in the Delaware Valley. The pelts were used for hats in those days, and were highly valuable.

The ship was armed, not only to protect itself, but also to be ready for service in the Swedish Navy. Replica cannons are displayed on the replica, along with other examples of period technology.

Much of the gear, right down to the nails, is made according to authentic practices. “We have an on-site blacksmith,” crew member Paul Schragger said, as he pointed out iron fittings.

The Kalmar Nyckel’s mission today is not trade, but education. The ship travels the East Coast in the warm months, with its volunteer crew bringing history and fun to visitors.

New Castle, Delaware will be the port of call this coming weekend, where the ship and crew will bring realism to a pirate-themed cruise.

To learn more, visit www.kalmarnyckel.org.

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