A floating history lesson drops anchor in New London

The Half Moon is docked at Waterfront Park in New London on Sunday. The ship is a full-scale, operating replica of the Dutch ship of exploration that Henry Hudson sailed in 1609.
The Half Moon is docked at Waterfront Park in New London on Sunday. The ship is a full-scale, operating replica of the Dutch ship of exploration that Henry Hudson sailed in 1609.

New London - In the midst of a journey that will take it from the banks of the Hudson River across the Atlantic Ocean to the Netherlands, the Half Moon and her crew were docked Sunday in New London.

The ship is a full-scale replica of the Halve Maen, the Dutch ship Henry Hudson sailed on during his 1609 expedition to find a western passage from Europe to Asia, which instead led him to Albany, N.Y.

The Half Moon, built by the New Netherland Museum in 1989 to serve as a floating lesson of the history between the Dutch and America, encountered unfavorable weather after leaving winter dock in Verplanck, N.Y., and docked in New London late Saturday night so it could refuel and rendezvous with additional crew members.

On Sunday afternoon, Ed T. Van Breen of the New Netherland Museum explained the mission of the replica ship as he led a guided tour for City Councilor Michael Passero and John Johnson of the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival, who helped arrange for the ship's accommodations in New London.

"We are here to underscore the Dutch contributions to American culture," he said. "We embrace the people who might have little understanding of the connection because the roots of America are not just English, they are also very much Dutch."

After 25 years of educating mostly American schoolchildren about the Dutch influences in America, the Half Moon will soon teach mostly the Dutch about their country's impact on North America.

In December, the New Netherland Museum announced that it would loan the Half Moon to the Westfries Museum in the Dutch seaport city of Hoorn, about 30 miles north of Amsterdam. The New Netherland Museum is an Albany, N.Y.-based nonprofit organization that operates a virtual but not physical museum.

"Our reason for going to the Netherlands is not for 'financial reasons' as reported in the news media," Andrew A. Hendricks, chairman of the New Netherland Museum, said in a statement about the loan. "Our museum needs a homeport in which to achieve our educational mission with the Half Moon. The city of Hoorn offers our museum an authentic 17th century homeport in which to develop worldwide interest in the voyages of the Half Moon."

But first, the Half Moon must get to Lynn, Mass., where it will take part in the filming of an HBO mini-series called "New World," Van Breen said. The ship must be in Massachusetts by Tuesday, Van Breen said, and will likely set out of New London Harbor as soon as the weather allows.

By early April, Van Breen said he expects the Half Moon will arrive in Newport, R.I., to be placed onto a transatlantic cargo ship bound for the Netherlands.

The Half Moon is expected to arrive in the Netherlands on May 23, when it will be greeted at the museum by an official reception featuring the U.S. ambassador to the country, according to the Westfries Museum. Beginning the next week, the replica ship will be open to the public and will spend the summer participating in various maritime heritage festivals in the Netherlands.

"By putting American history in the context of world history, we can underscore the connections between the Netherlands and America," Van Breen said. "We want to be ambassadors of North America in the Netherlands."

c.young@theday.com

Twitter: @ColinAYoung

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