Featured Story

For Doris Sherman, the tall ship Kalmar Nyckel represents a link to her family’s history

On Sunday, Doris Sherman boarded the sailing vessel Kalmar Nyckel for the second time when it visited Greenport’s East End Seaport Museum.

She first boarded the majestic ship 22 years ago, during a Tall Ships festival in 2000 in Delaware. But but her connection to it goes back much further. 

“I had a chance to see it then but I haven’t had a chance to see it since. I just said to myself, one more time … I want to just feel that feeling of having to realize this is where my family came over,” Ms. Sherman said.

In 1638, 15-year-old Gerrit Hendricksen boarded the Kalmar Nyckel in Holland, bound for Delaware. He worked as a farmhand on a tobacco plantation in what is now Albany, N.Y., and later moved to Manhattan after receiving a grant of farmland there. He had 14 children and two marriages. All but one of his surviving children lived on and became shareholders in the Tappan Patent, a land grant given by then N.Y. governor Thomas Dongan to 13 Dutchmen and three free Blacks. According to the Old Tappan website, it is believed to be the only land grant in the country to have included Blacks and whites on an equal basis. Today, those lands, located in Bergen County, N.J., are considered the birthplace of the Blauvelt family in America.

Mr. Hendricksen is Ms. Sherman’s 11th great-grandfather on her mother’s side, she said. On Sunday, she carried with her a 60-page book that she compiled, through her own research, on the history of the Blauvelts and her paternal ancestors, the Zabriskie family. 

“I didn’t do it through Ancestry; right now they keep contacting me on my cellphone about finding more pictures of my grandfather, grandmother all over, ” Ms. Sherman said. “But I did it through [other] books; I looked back in the research.”

Doris Sherman and her son James before boarding the Kalmar Nyckel in Greenport Sunday. (Credit: Melissa Azofeifa)

Ms. Sherman is 96 and has been a member of Peconic Landing in Greenport for 16 years. When she shared her connection to the Kalmar Nyckel —and her desire to go aboard once again— Diane Radigan, vice president of member services at Peconic Landing, contacted interim director Tracey Orlando at the East End Seaport Museum, who arranged a sail on the vessel and a private tour with its captain, Lauren Morgans.

“We are so thankful to the community of Peconic Landing for threading the needle on this and bringing this wonderful gem to us,” Ms. Orlando said Sunday. “It didn’t take but a second. We wanted her on board … the whole ship is abuzz.”

Ms. Sherman was joined on the special excursion by her son James and daughter-in-law Hanne Kjeldgaard Sherman. 

During the Sunday afternoon sail, which lasted a little under two hours, Ms. Sherman explained a bit of her family history and her connection to the ship to fellow passengers.

“I can’t believe it, I had so much fun. I truly enjoyed it,” Ms. Sherman said by phone the next day. 

The Kalmar Nyckel, also known as “Delaware’s Mayflower,” is a full-scale replica of the Swedish merchant ship that landed in present-day Wilmington in 1638 to establish the colony of New Sweden, the first permanent European settlement in the Delaware Valley. The ship celebrated its 25 anniversary this summer. 

The Kalmar Nyckel Foundation, a nonprofit that built, owns and operates the ship, is an educational organization with a crew of 200 trained volunteers who help maintain and sail the vessel and run various programs throughout the year, including field trips, classroom programs, festivals and other events for all ages.

“It’s sort of come full circle for me, as a person, back to where they started, and I’m still here,” Ms. Sherman said.