By JOHN T. WARD
They were the tractor-trailers of their day, hauling cargo from port to port in an era when inland roads were all but nonexistent.
Seventeenth-century sailing ships such as the Onrust plied the waters surrounding New Amsterdam, carrying produce and other goods from port to port.
“It’s how everything moved,” according to Michael Humphreys, a board member with the Navesink Maritime Heritage Association. “There were no roads worth traveling,” and hacking one’s way through the woods could get a visitor killed by an unwelcoming Native American, he said.
In June, the NMHA will bring a replica of the Onrust to rust-colored banks of Red Bank. But don’t say the name as it appears: the word is pronounced “AHN-roost.”
It’s Dutch for “restless,” according to Humphreys. Smithsonian Magazine, which featured the ship in a 2009 article, says it means “trouble,” and this online dictionary gives the word various translations, including “excitement,” “turmoil,” trepidation” and “harassment.”
As noted by Smithsonian Magazine, the original Onrust, built in 1614 by Dutchman Adriaen Block, was “the first covered deck ship ever built in the area that would one day become New York, and it played a key role in shaping New York’s history.”
The three-year replica construction project was completed in 2009, the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s 1609 journey up the river that came to have his name.
For the NMHA, the Onrust is anything but trouble. The organization is hosting the ship’s visit as a dual celebration of the 350th anniversary of the settlement of Monmouth County and as a fundraiser.
The 44-foot Onrust “is very similar to the ships” that helped expand the white population’s footprint in the New World, Humphreys said. In fact, during is short recorded life – it “disappeared off the radar” of historians in 1616, Humphreys said – the Onrust made at least one, well-documented foray up into Raritan Bay, carrying colonists fleeing the strictures of Puritan life in New England to the barely-visited shores of what would become New Jersey. But the ship was turned back by the Dutch, said Humphreys.
Details of the ship’s visit from its home in Watertown, New York, are still being finalized. But a one-day stopover at Bahr’s Landing in Highlands is scheduled for Thursday, June 5, with a two-day berthing at Marine Park in Red Bank confirmed for Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8.
In between is a possible stopover in Rumson or Fair Haven, if the NMHA can find an accessible floating dock that can accommodate the Onrust’s four-and-a-half-foot draft, Humphreys said.
NMHA members and the public will have free access to the vessel at the various riverside locations.
The so-called Cruise of the Onrust includes a stop in Gravesend, Brooklyn the departure point for the first five English settler families to settle in Monmouth County.
A group of local maritime companies is funding the cruise, and Red Bank-based Martin & Ottaway is coordinating fundraising for the voyage.
The NMHA also hopes the attention will begin attracting some of the estimated $250,000 it believes it will need for its next venture, Humphreys said.
The 15-year-old group, which has never had a home, is negotiating a lease on the historic Grover House, in Stevenson Park on West Front Street in Middletown. There, it hopes to erect a historically authentic boat-building shed to create its own wooden vessels.