2:32 p.m., Dec. 4, 2009----Rachel Laufer, a senior majoring in American history at the University of Delaware, writes about her experience as bosun's mate aboard the full-sized replica of explorer Henry Hudson's vessel, Half Moon. For more information about the UD History Department and its summer internship opportunities, visit this Web site.
I'm regularly asked by four-year-old children, is this a pirate ship? I just have to laugh and constantly explain how the Half Moon was a trade and exploration vessel funded by the Dutch East India Trade Company to sail under the command of English explorer Henry Hudson in 1609 in search of a Northeast passage to the Spice Islands, although he eventually went west.
Today, the full-sized replica of the Half Moon is a floating museum and a sailing classroom. But it is also more. It is a unique, life-changing experience. I began as a docent in September 1999 and participated in the April 2000 Voyage of Discovery, a week-long trip when students learn to sail, steer the ship, and climb the rigging as they did 400 years ago, thus making history come alive and learning the significance of the 1609 voyage.
In my essay for the contest to go on the ship, I wrote how I hated history but hoped the experience would change my opinion. Six years later at the University of Delaware, I declared American history as my major because the Half Moon taught me to love history.
They also couldn't get rid of me on the ship; I've continued to work on board over the past ten years.
As bosun's mate, I am one of the officers responsible for the logistics of sailing and for managing the crew. Sailing has become one of my favorite parts of my job as is meeting crew members from every walk of life and from all over the world. For example, as a part of Dutch history, we have many Dutch crew members.
Over the last four months, I have helped give public and school tours as well as run student trips like the one I participated in almost ten years ago, teaching the students how to sail and about the history behind the Half Moon. And to make the experience even more special, we have been celebrating the 400th anniversary of the original Half Moon's trip up the Hudson River, which began the settlement of the Dutch in the area.