In 1609, English explorer Henry Hudson made his way up the now eponymous river, making contact with the indigenous people. Merchants in the Netherlands learned of this voyage and were eager to make their own inroads for trading beaver pelts and other natural resources.
The Dutch merchants found their man in Adriaen Block, an experienced mariner who had already voyaged to the New World. In 1614, when Block was 47, he made his fourth and final trip across the Atlantic in a small vessel called Tyger. Though he successfully navigated to the lower Hudson, his boat burned to the waterline upon arrival. Block and his crew built a new boat from remnants of the old and called it Onrust, which means restless in Dutch. In the first yacht built in America, Block’s crew began to chart new territory. They sailed through Hell’s Gate and into Long Island Sound. Block navigated the Onrust up the Connecticut River, reaching the Enfield Rapids.
With his notes from the journey, he created a map that was presented to the States General of the United Provinces, the governing body of the Dutch Republic, in 1616. He combined his own survey with earlier maps made by Verazano and Champlin and became the first European cartographer to identity Long Island as an island and to accurately depict the coastline of Connecticut. He also charted Block Island, his eponymous island.
His legacy as an explorer, trader, captain, map maker and mariner continue to delight the imagination. In 2006, a group of volunteers began a project to recreate the Onrust using only traditional Dutch shipbuilding techniques. Today, visitors can take a turn at the helm or simply enjoy the views, as they imagine the excitement that Block’s crew must have felt on their first journey along the Connecticut, the long tidal river.
Visit the Connecticut River Museum to find out more about Adriaen Block’s story and other river-related exhibits, and sail aboard the recreated Onrust.