News Articles

New Netherland’ first ship the ’Onrust’ becomes replica project

Natives helped crew build new ship

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

SCHENECTADY, NY – A stranded 17th-century Dutch explorer made North American history in 1614, when he and his crew with the help of local natives built a ship as a replacement of the one which had burned down, the result of a mishap. This year, a group of history buffs and artisans will build a replica of Adriaan Block’s Onrust (Dutch for Restless).

The replica builders will use original 17th-century Dutch building techniques. The unique project is undertaken under the auspices of new nonprofit organization New Netherland Routes, Inc. Its project supervisor is Gerald DeWeerdt, director of the ’t Behouden Huys,’ maritime museum on the Frisian island of Terschelling, the Netherlands. The Schenectady County project will once completed act as a floating ambassador for Schenectady and the Mohawk River area. Originally, the region was settled by Dutch traders and colonists.

The Onrust was built by Adriaen Block and the crew of the Tyger, which had been destroyed by fire at the tip of Manhattan. The Onrust, a yacht, was the first decked vessel to be built entirely in America. The construction, with help from the Lenape Indians, took the entire winter. The ship was 44 1/2 feet in length, with a 11 1/2 feet beam and had a displacement of 16 tons.

The Onrust was launched into Upper New York Bay in April 1614. The ship sailed through the treacherous passage called Hell Gate (the English translations of Helle-Gat) in the East River and later became the first American-built vessel to sail in Long Island Sound. Block earlier had explored the waters with the Tyger. Block explored the harbors of Long Island and Connecticut discovering the Housatonic and Thames Rivers, and sailed up the Connecticut River (then called de Versche Rivier) past the site of Hartford. The Onrust continued on to Narragansett and Buzzards Bays, and Cape Cod.

Block’s name was immortalized on maps through Block Island. On the basis of this voyage, the Dutch laid claim to the territory of New Netherland, a territory that included Long Island (and all of New York), Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and parts of Pennsylvania.

The last known account of the Onrust has her on a 1616 expedition down the coast of New Jersey to explore the Delaware River with Captain Cornelius Hendrickson in command. No documents have surfaced beyond 1616. Since the ship was too small to cross the Atlantic, and records exist of its loss, it is assumed that the Onrust was abandoned when newly ships took over.

The Hudson River is the site of the Half Moon (Halve Maen) replica, built in the early 1990s. Explorer Henry Hudson who was employed by Dutch traders, first arrived in the area in 1609.