Kalmar Nyckel crew training class keepsakes

We took on the Kalmar Nyckel, Delaware’s Tall Ship, as a pro bono client, without any particular interest or experience with sailing. Because of our interest in printing history we thought printing via letterpress connected to a 3-masted pennice that landed at Wilmington, Delaware in 1638 would provide an interesting creative outlet. At the same time we could help an organization that offers wonderful experiences (the chance to set and douse a sail on a tall ship isn’t your average experience for a fourth grader) to thousands each year. After starting our work with a volunteer recruiting poster, we decided that taking the Crew Training Classes would help us with our ideas along with having a few new experiences.

As we are progressed through the 10 weeks of training from January through April, 2011, to learn to sail the Kalmar Nyckel, Delaware’s tall ship, we produced a keepsake reflecting on each week’s experience. We let the topics ‘pour’ out of each training day. The layout was established fairly spontaneously, with little planning, except that generally we would like to do it in two runs.

The size of each piece is 5″ x 11″, so we get 10 out of a sheet of 22″ x 30″ American Masters and also gave us the deckle edge at the bottom. It is all handset in wood and metal type with a few other objects thrown in for good measure.

We took about 75 copies to the following week’s training session for classmates and the other volunteers. We set aside 50 copies of each that we are going to bundle into portfolios. We might try to sell them for $50 a set to help cover the cost of the paper or give them to letterpress friends or sailors.


Saturday no. 1: In typography we’ve always been attracted to any interesting use of punctuation and you can often see this in our letterpress projects (N’t cardsMother’s DayRaven Press). When you like that stuff it is hard to ignore a word with two apostrophes in it (and sometimes you see it with 3). It is a shortened version of ‘forecastle’ which is at the front of the ship. Sheetbend is a knot we learned that connects the ends of two lines so the type layout should be obvious. It was nice that the name ends in end which added an extra touch. The rope image is printed directly from rope that had been glued to a thin board.

Saturday no. 2: The highlight of the day was a fire drill which made you wonder what a fire would be like out on the high seas. If you see a fire on board you yell it out three times. We had to do an extra run for this poster for each yell in order to get the overlaps. Muster is ‘collecting together’ after a fire warning has been given. The shape was an abstract image of fire cut from a piece of scrap plywood on our lead (as in the metal) saw which can cut in very accurate increments.

Saturday no. 3: It was 11 degrees when we started this morning, consequently the choice of pastel colors. Outside. Freezing. Learning how block & tackles (pronounced with a long A) work. We also starting learning to belay (tying off a line and the Kalmar Nyckel has LOTS of lines) which sometimes happens by wrapping the line back and forth between two pins. We cut a tall “zero” in half (removing most of the middle) to get those two Cs combined with an X to illustrate the belaying. Normally we wouldn’t want to be cutting wood type, but in this instance we now have two pieces. We were using one of our pieces of orphan type so it didn’t dig into one of our more complete wood fonts.


Saturday no. 4: Knots, commands, belay points, man overboard drills, etc. were starting to all run together. Seemed like every time you learned something new you forgot two old things. And when you’re doing this when sailing you need to do it right AND QUICK. Hopefully, it will become more and more natural as we drive this information deeper into our brains. Anyway, the questions are starting to get the edge on answers.

Saturday no. 5: The highlight of the day was a low-key race to identify the belay points on the ship. We divided into two teams (yellow and blue). Each mentor had about 20 rings made from rope. They would hand a ring to one of the team members and they would run to put it on the belay point. Then the next one would be given out. Nice excuse to bring out a nice set of Os from our wood collection and our larger metal type (our largest is 96 point Caslon).

Saturday no. 6: Hmmm. More Os. The main focus was on doing a boat check, which while you are under sail, is done every 30 minutes. Look here. Look there. Water in the five bilges? Fire extinguishers in the right spots? Lines properly stowed? Propane leaking? Water running? Head pumps doing anything weird? While the ship is a very contained space, there are lots of nooks and crannies and during the night while you are checking there are lots of people trying to sleep.


Saturday no. 7: We spent a good deal of the day setting (making the sail big so it can catch a lot of wind) and dousing (making the sail small) the fores’l (large bottom sail on the frontmost TALL mast and the mizzen (triangular sail at the back of the ship). It is going to be pretty amazing to be out on the high seas and to have a few people reorganize the sails and have the ship head off in a new direction.

Saturday no. 8: When you are doing “bow watch” (standing watch at the front of the ship) and you see something that needs someone’s attention (i.e. large tanker ship, a speed boat coming straight for you, an iceberg) you need to be able to tell them the direction. Straight in front of you is “dead ahead”, 3:00 is “starboard beam”, 10:30 is “broad on the port bow”, to name a few. The chart that explains this is called a Wind Rose, which is quite a nice name for it.

Saturday no. 9: This piece was designed a bit more around the week proceeding week 10 which included a written final exam and a test of practical seamanship. Jill and I would ask each other random questions, location of belay points, responses to various orders, sequence of events to set and douse various sails, location of fire extinguishers, job obligations in case of man overboard or fire or abandoning ship, names of sails, and how to tie the various knots used on the ship.


Saturday no. 10: We had done keepsakes 1 - 9 using only handset wood & metal type and a few handmade graphics. We had designed the certificate (the first one they’ve given out) to be used for our class so we thought it would be appropriate to refer to it in the 10th piece. So, in this instance the piece also includes a corner of the certificate using photopolymer plates highlight the words “crew training class 26″.

While often a bit hectic trying to schedule a full Saturday, work in 40 hours of maintenance, make a few out-of-class talks & movies, and produce these keepsakes, in the end Jill and I easily passed our final exam and practical seamanship tests. It was a really nice experience, we got a ton of exercise, learned some interesting history, connected something else with our interest in printing & typographic history, and we made dozens of wonderful new friends.

Now to stand on the bow of the ship 60 miles off shore on a moonlit night and feel the wind through my hair. We are ready to sail.