'Half Moon' offers voyage of discovery for students

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Sun., Jul. 10, 2011
The Half Moon docked at Seaboard Marina in Glastonbury on July 4. Students presented their findings from their week-long voyage. Photos by Frances Taylor.
The Half Moon docked at Seaboard Marina in Glastonbury on July 4. Students presented their findings from their week-long voyage. Photos by Frances Taylor.

The Half Moon, a full-size replica of the 1609 vessel of explorer Henry Hudson, was quite a sight as it sat in a small marina in Glastonbury surrounded by modern pleasure boats on July 4 weekend. On board, its crew was a group of students from Connecticut River Academy, who were nearing the end of a week-long voyage that began in New London.

For the 11 students who made the trip, it was a chance for further environmental study, which is the focus of their curriculum at Connecticut River Academy, located on the river at Goodwin College in East Hartford.

“These students have had a chance to take responsibilities and face challenges that many adults haven't done,” said Capt. William Reynolds, who leads the crew of the Half Moon and teaches its history to those on board. Henry Hudson was an explorer for the Dutch East India Company, and the Half Moon was the first European ship to chart what today is known as the Hudson River Valley and the Delaware Valley.

The Half Moon has three sail masts, and is 85 feet long and 78 feet high. Its main features and details are authentic to the original 17th century ship. “Henry Hudson would still recognize this ship and be able to sail it,” Reynolds said.

Though the trip was fun, it was no pleasure cruise. To navigate the ship through Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River, students learned to read the stars and the attitude of the sun. Using the tools of Hudson's day, they studied wind and sea currents.

Students had round-the-clock chores that were required to keep the ship on course, as well as kitchen duty and their own research. They were happy to show visitors their cramped quarters below deck, which they survived without air-conditioning or shower facilities.

“I knew most of the people before I got on,” said Hannah Conde, a 10th-grader. “We definitely know each other a lot better now. But everyone got along.” One of the most important jobs was anchor watch, where a student would get up in the early morning hours to check the anchor to make sure the boat was not drifting while anchored overnight at sea. “Sometimes the light would play tricks on you and it would look like the boat was sinking,'' said Kristen Colon, a 10th-grader.

Jacob Combs and Jawara Lashley showed the method they used to navigate the ship, with one person on the tiller and the other on deck guiding them. “It’s not that hard, once you get used to it,” Comb said.

Connecticut River Academy teachers Jennifer Reilly, Kelly Falvey, Tony Roy and Tom Filgus also accompanied the students on the trip. “It's been wonderful,” said Falvey. “We've watched the students learn and become more independent and capable. They've learned how to work together, and how to problem-solve together.”

The Half Moon, which docked in East Hartford at Goodwin College on July 5, will be open to the public July 9 and 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for tours.

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