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When she first saw the “tall ship of Delaware,” the Kalmar Nyckel, docked in Solomons about six years ago, Lusby resident Betsy Montanio thought, “Oh, my goodness, that is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” she said.
Soon after, she became a part of the 141-foot-long ship’s 300-plus-member all-volunteer crew, hauling lines and taking performing public relations duties when “the queen of the tall ship fleet” sails into Calvert County.
Now, hosted by the Calvert Marine Museum, this authentic reproduction of a 1638 Dutch sailing Pinnace will return to Solomons, docking at Waterman’s Wharf from June 19 through 22, according to a press release. During the Tall Ship Invasion of Calvert County’s Star-Spangled Celebration, which will mark the 200th anniversary of the pivotal Southern Maryland battles of the War of 1812, the ship and its crew will offer tours as well as take on passengers for day sails.
“It’s a fascinating experience,” Montanio said of being a part of the crew. And the ship’s background is considered fascinating, as well — launched in 1997 in Wilmington, Del., the ship is an accurate replica of the original, which Capt. Lauren Morgens called the “Mayflower of the Delaware Valley.”
A Dutch-built colonial ship, the original Kalmar Nyckel was constructed between 1625 and 1628 and was used as a Swedish naval vessel, Morgens said. In 1637, it traveled for the first time to the “New World” to found the colony of New Sweden, which is now Delaware.
It has eight sails and 8 miles of rigging, its original having brought the earliest settlers from Sweden to Delaware, according to the press release. The ship’s countless ornate carvings include an 8-foot lion figurehead and an elaborate transom carved with King Neptune and his two mermaid daughters.
The ship is a window into learning more about 17th-century sailing techniques, Morgens said. The Kalmar Nyckel is unique because it is almost exclusively square-rigged, meaning the sails are almost perpendicular to the keel, or the backbone of the ship. On modern vessels, sails generally run parallel to the keel.
During the weekend June 21 and 22, the Calvert Marine Museum will host three other ships, all docked in Solomons: the Pride of Baltimore II from Baltimore at the Solomons Island Yacht Club; the Sultana from Chestertown at Zahniser’s Marina; and The Dove from St. Mary’s City at the marine museum.
The Kalmar Nyckel will also join the others June 22 at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum for a tactical demonstration, the Tall Ship “Invasions” re-enactment, the release states.
Those who choose to participate in the “day sails” — which last about two-and-a-half hours — can work with the volunteer crew as they haul lines, raise sails and “learn just how hard it is to cross the Atlantic in the 17th century,” the release states. Conversely, they are invited to relax with a bottle of wine or a picnic lunch they bring along and enjoy a 21st-century sail.
More spirited “pirate sails” — featuring pirate tales, scavenger hunts and the raising of the Jolly Roger — are also offered for younger sailors.
Kalmar Nyckel will offer a day sail at 5 p.m. Thursday; pirate sails at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. June 20; free deck tours 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and day sails at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. June 21; and a final pirate sail at 5 p.m. June 22. All sails are $60 for adults and $40 for ages 17 and younger. For tickets and more information, contact the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation office at 302-429-7447 (toll free at 866-659-7447), or go to kalmarnyckel.org.
To book a sail online, go to www.kalmarnyckel.org/BookASail.asp.
“If they’re sailing, what’s really nice is they make it interactive,” Montanio said, adding that the crew is accessible and interested in asking and answering questions and prone to singing “chantey songs” while they haul lines. “There’s a lot that’s going on.”