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Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Water Ways: Mid-Atlantic Maritime Communities

Building and Restoring Tall Ships

Large sailing ships like the Kalmar Nyckel, which first landed in what is now Delaware in 1638, brought immigrants to the new world. "Tall ships" were the main form of transportation and commerce in the Mid-Atlantic maritime region until well into the 19th century. Sailing ships such as the oyster schooners of the Delaware and Chesapeake bays were still used for commercial fishing into the 20th century. Today, restored and replicated tall ships keep the tradition alive.

It takes a whole community of craftspeople to build a reproduction of a tall ship. The Sultana, a colonial schooner which originally plied the waters of the Chester River and Chesapeake Bay in the mid-1700s, was replicated at a shipyard in Chestertown, Maryland. Launched in 2001, the ship is used today for educational and tourist tours.

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Skipjack restoration work, photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.