Pirates Commandeer the Kalmar Nyckel!

Lads and mateys jumped aboard the Kalmar Nykel on Saturday to hear tales of a bygone sea-going era filled with pirates and booty as they walked the decks of the Tall Ship of Delaware. Nearly 3,000 visitors dropped by the Wilmington Pirate Festival, which featured plenty of land and sea activities for families and adults who explored the new campus and site of the original landing of the Kalmar Nickel in 1638.

The Tall Ship of Delaware, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is a replica of the original Kalmar Nyckel and is docked on the Christina River at Wilmington’s Riverfront.

Two pirate crews — The Archangels Crewe and the Vigilant Crew — set up stations throughout the grounds of the campus, showing what life was really like for pirates at sea and when they came ashore. Mitchell O’Sionnach demonstrated for festivalgoers the tools used to make bags out of sail cloth. Inspired by a pirate festival he attended six years ago, O’Sionnach said he enjoys traveling and teaching living history. “I felt a passion for educating the public on what things looked like hundreds of years ago and teaching kids that the reality is really cool.”

One pirate cooked homemade biscuits on a piping hot cast iron skillet. Another set up in an infirmary, telling visitors that she would have served as surgeon, apothecary and midwife on a ship. Splinters and crushing injuries were common on sea-going vessels at that time. 

The event also featured several food trucks, music, arts and crafts stations and tours of the incredible Copeland Maritime Center, which includes a replica of a portion of the Kalmar Nyckel that kids can climb and interact with as well as several artifacts and watercraft models from all over the world. The public also had the opportunity to view the newly-opened exhibit Wilmington – Industrial Powerhouse ~ the city that launched 10,000 ships and 30,000 rail cars between the Civil War and World War II.  If you missed the festival, there’s still lots to see that’s worth the visit.

The last pirate festival was held five years ago in the Tubman-Garrett Park area of the Riverfront. This year’s was the first in the Kalmar Nikel’s permanent location. “We know that this is an event that the City of Wilmington and residents really love. So we wanted to bring it back and invite the community to come and explore our treasure here on 7th Street,” said Kalmar Nyckel Executive Director Cathy Parsells.

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About the Contributor

Christy Fleming

Christy Fleming

The managing editor of TownSquareDelaware.com, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.

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