Back from the past: Students return after voyage on Half Moon (with photo gallery)

If Aleda Kirstein meets her future goal of becoming a marine biologist, she’ll be spending a lot of

If Aleda Kirstein meets her goal of becoming a marine biologist, she’ll be spending a lot of time on the water.

That’s why the eighth-grader explained in a school essay that she wanted to spend six days on the Hudson River taking a voyage that mimicked the route explorer Henry Hudson traveled in 1609.

“We pretty much got to act like we were a member of Hudson’s crew,” she said on Monday. “We had to take care of the boat; we had to wash the boat … it was a lot of fun.”

Kirstein was among four Schenectady students from Central Park International Magnet School, along with students from around the greater Capital Region and the Netherlands, who earned the chance to sail on the 12th annual Voyage of Discovery of the replica ship Half Moon.

“You might want to stand downwind. We all smell a bit,” joked Captain William “Chip” Reynolds after the participants and crew sailed into port at Albany’s Corning Preserve.

The program allows students to get the experience of sailing a full-scale Dutch ship along the Hudson. They sleep on the deck as the crew would have done and help operate the ship with the guidance of adult crew members.

Kirstein’s favorite part was climbing into the rigging and sitting in the ship’s crow’s nest, and her peers all seemed to agree that was the best.

“We were in a harness,” fellow Central Park eighth-grader Olivia Canavan reassured her parents.

Her essay about how the trip would teach lessons of responsibility and trustworthiness earned Canavan one of the spots. She said it took students a little while to gain their “sea legs,” but it wasn’t too bad because they weren’t on the ocean.

“No one got seasick” that she knew of, according to the 13-year-old.

Schenectady students were told in June which essays had won. They then traveled by bus last week to Verplanck in Westchester County, where they boarded the Half Moon.

“I think the best part is all of the schools got to work together,” said fifth-grade Central Park teacher Tiffany Zadoorian, who was picked by fellow staff members to go on the trip for her first time. “They built long-lasting friendships and it was really neat to see the girls and boys blossom together.”

Along with the rigors of running a 17th-century ship, the students did not escape homework.

They were put into groups to work on math and science projects that taught them how sailors used the sun to tell time, how pulley systems work and how to calculate the speed of a ship. They then presented their finds to the other participants. The students and adult crew also constantly measured the water depth, current, wind, weather and clarity.

“They now have a better understanding of how physics works, how a close environment works, and gained life lessons they can take back to the classroom,” Zadoorian said.

Other students on the trip were from Rensselaer Middle School, Harriet Myers Middle School in Albany, Taconic Middle School, and from Bornego College in Heerenveen, Friesland in the Netherlands. The latter students will visit the United States as part of an exchange program.

The ship is owned by the New Netherland Museum and was built by the group in Albany from 1987 to 1989 to replicate the designs of the Dutch East India Company. For less windy days, the ship has a diesel engine, electric generator, freshwater holding tanks and modern navigational equipment, so those on board arrive in Albany on time.

The original Half Moon — or in Dutch, Halve Maen — was commissioned on March 25, 1609, as an exploration ship to find a new sea route to Asia. After reaching the Arctic by accident, Hudson and his crew turned around. The Half Moon was the first European ship to explore the Delaware Bay and river, and the Hudson River to present-day Albany. Hudson soon claimed the region in the name of the Dutch.

Matthew and Catherine Canavan said they missed their daughter while she was gone and worried about her being on the water, but they were happy she was granted the opportunity to travel the Hudson.

“The Half Moon has a wonderful history and she gained a great experience,” said Olivia’s father.

Categories: Schenectady County

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