During the past weekend, the Kalmar Nyckel docked in Cambridge. When not enjoyed at the marina, she hosted numerous guests for short cruises on the Choptank River. A short video provides a sense of her impressive presence.
Kalmar Nyckel was constructed in about 1625, and was of a design called a pinnace. The ship was originally named Sleutel (Dutch for key), but was called Key for the city of Kalmar, which purchased the ship in 1629, as its contribution to a state-sponsored trading company.
It was later purchased into the Swedish Navy. When Sweden decided to establish a trading colony in the New World under the direction of Peter Minuit, Kalmar Nyckel was chosen for the voyage.
The ship sailed from Gothenburg in December 1637, commanded by Jan Hindriksen van der Water, but encountered a severe storm in the North Sea and had to divert to the Netherlands for repairs. They departed on New Year’s Day 1638, arriving in North America in March 1638. They built a fort on the present site of the city of Wilmington, which they named Fort Christina.
The Kalmar Nyckel made four successful round trips from Sweden to North America, a record unchallenged by any other colonial vessel. Between colonial voyages, the ship was used by the navy as a transport and courier. She was sold out of Swedish service to Dutch merchants in 1651. At the outbreak of the First Anglo-Dutch War, she was employed as a fisheries protection vessel under Captain Dirk Vijgh. The ship was sunk off the coast of Scotland in action against Blake’s squadron on July 12, 1652.
In 1986, a group of citizens from Wilmington, Delaware, established the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation, whose primary source of funding is from the taxpayers of the State of Delaware, plus donations from corporations and individuals. The foundation designed, built, and launched a replica of Kalmar Nyckel. The modern ship, designed by naval architects Thomas C. Gillmer and Iver Franzen, with additional help from Melbourne Smith, Joel Welter, and Ken Court, was built at a shipyard in Wilmington. She was launched on September 28, 1997, and commissioned on May 9, 1998. The re-creation measures 94 ft (29 m) on deck and 131 ft (40 m) overall, with a 25 ft (7.6 m) beam, a 12 ft (3.7 m) draft, and a displacement of 300 tons.