This summer, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will offer tours that explore the 18th century history, artifacts and surviving hull section of His Majesty’s Sloop DeBraak, a British warship that was escorting and protecting a convoy of merchant ships en route to the United States when it capsized and was lost off the Delaware coast May 25, 1798.
Buoyed by a 46 percent increase in attendance between 2017 and 2018, tours will again be offered on both Thursday mornings and selected Saturday evenings during the 2019 season. Thursday tours will take place at 9 a.m. on the following dates: June 13, 20 and 27; July 11, 18 and 25; Aug. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29; and Sept. 5, 12, 19 and 26. Tours will not be held Thursday, July 4. Saturday tours will take place at 5 p.m., June 29, July 27 and Aug. 31.
Each tour begins at the Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, where a lecture on the ship will be presented in conjunction with the exhibit A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World. Participants will learn about the history, crew and sinking of the DeBraak through a guided presentation and display of artifacts. Attendees will then be transported via van to the DeBraak conservation facility for interpretation and viewing of the ship's surviving hull section.
Each tour will last approximately two hours. Those age 10 and up are welcome. Space is limited to 12 participants. The cost of the program is $10 per person (cash or check only). For nonrefundable reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 302-645-1148. Walk-ups are welcome but space is not guaranteed.
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, sloops of war such as DeBraak played an increasingly important role in Royal Navy campaigns. These relatively small vessels combined speed, agility, shallow draft and substantial firepower, all of which made them formidable naval vessels. As the only Royal Navy sloop of war from this time period that has been recovered anywhere in the world, DeBraak serves as an invaluable historical resource for a time when Great Britain was the world's preeminent naval power.
The surviving section of the DeBraak's hull and its associated artifact collection have been curated by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs since they were acquired by the State of Delaware in 1992. Approximately one-third of the hull survives including the keel, keelson and lower framing elements, including a large section of the starboard (right) side.