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From the October 2004 issue of ACCent, the newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club:


A Chance Encounter With The Kalmar Nyckel

By Mike Nourse  


     My vacation this year (2004) started with a flight to Boston, Massachusetts, where I met up with my parents. While my parents live in Florida, they have absolutely no desire to be anywhere near that state in the summer time, particularly in the hot, steamy interior part of the state where their house is located. Therefore, they spend their summers on their 40-foot sailboat, traveling continuously about, from place to place, port to port, all around New England. We stayed in Boston that night, docked at the Boston Boat Yard, and made our departure the next morning.

     Our destination for the day was East Southeast from Boston, right across Cape Cod Bay, toward the very tip of Cape Cod. There is a safe, calm harbor at the end of the Cape, called Provincetown Harbor, which has many good places to drop our anchor for the night. As we were approaching the harbor, we noted what appeared to be an old pirate ship also entering for the night. I took pictures of the ship when we passed nearby, at that time not knowing the identity of the ship.


The Kalmar Nyckel entering Provincetown Harbor under full sail.
This is similar to the side view (though facing the other direction) as seen on the reverse of the Delaware Tercentenary commemorative half dollar, in case any of you were interested in colorizing your Choice Unc. Delaware halves!
Note the two open side hatches with cannons pointed at us.

     Several days later, we crossed paths again in a harbor called Vineyard Haven in the Island of Martha’s Vineyard, south of Cape Cod. This time my curiosity got the best of me, so I jumped in our dinghy with my camera and went right up to where the mystery ship was docked. It turned out to be the Kalmar Nyckel, which numismatists know is the ship which brought a group of Swedes to Delaware in 1638, and is thus depicted on the reverse of the Delaware Tercentenary commemorative half dollar.


The Kalmar Nyckel in Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. 
I took about a dozen pictures from this angle (sitting in our dinghy) so that I would be sure to get one when the flag was flying clear of the ship. There is some incredible wood carving on the stern of this ship! The name is barely visible on the stern a bit above the railing.

     Remarkably, we had a third encounter with the Nyckel a few days later, after the passing of the remnants of hurricanes Gaston and Hermine, this time anchored in the Great Salt Pond in Block Island, Rhode Island.

Kalmar Nyckel in the Great Salt Pond
This picture was taken from shore, using quite a bit of zoom lens. This is in the Great Salt Pond in Block Island, Rhode Island, and due to the congestion in the harbor (even on a weekday), the Kalmar Nyckel is traveling by motor power here as it approaches it's night anchorage. The bow is to the right (mostly hidden) and the stern is to the left.


We had arrived in the Pond in the middle of one sunny afternoon, and the Kalmar Nyckel did not arrive until that evening. I got one picture of the ship as it was arriving in the Pond, and then another later that evening at the very tail end of twilight. It turns out that they dropped anchor very close to our boat that night, so I had the opportunity to see it fairly clearly in the bright moonlight. Quite a sight! The picture below was taken by sticking my head out of my cabin hatch. Of course, it was light enough in the moonlight to see that they had several cannons pointing straight at us, but I felt quite confident that they were not planning on using them that night.


The Nyckel at night.
It was almost completely dark when I took this photo, so I had to do some real image processing to make the ship visible. As you can see, they had one sail lit up in back and an anchor light up front. The large flag that flies at the back of the ship (any ship or boat) is always brought in at sunset, which is usually indicated by a cannon shot at the local marina.

     The next morning, we left the Great Salt Pond and Block Island, with Mystic, Connecticut as our destination for that day. About an hour later, we saw the Kalmar Nyckel departing Block Island as well, but they took a more northeast course while we were heading west-northwest. I was somewhat expecting (hoping) that they were headed toward Newport, Rhode Island, which would be our destination a day or two later. I do not know if they went to Newport or not, but if they did, they were gone by the time we arrived. Leaving Block Island was the last time that we saw the Kalmar Nyckel.

     Of course, this is a reproduction of the original colonists’ ship as the original is long gone. This new version of the Kalmar Nyckel has the advantage of having an engine, though they do travel by sail when winds permit. Still, a very impressive sight - - especially for a trip which I had not planned any numismatic events other than catching up on some of my Coin World and Numismatic News magazines!




        I received an email from a very nice member of the Kalmar Nyckel Association, Aleasa Hogate, who sent me some info about the association and a request for permission to use some of my pictures on their website, which was granted. In return, I was sent the four photos below showing what it looks like on board the ship.

        A big thanks goes out to Aleasa for the photos below. To read more about Aleasa you can visit her web page on the web site.


On board the ship

Aleasa and her husband are on the right dressed in period costume with a few visitors.


Kalmar Nyckel Cannon


On board

Tightening up on the ropes.


Captain's Quarters

Deluxe accommodations for the captain!



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