Greta Wagle

Dedicated Historical Researcher and Community Leader                            

About Greta Wagle

As cofounder of the Onrust Project, Greta Wagle has revived the spirit of the historical New Netherland ship Onrust, which was the first yacht ever built in the Americas. Along with a team of preservationists and volunteers, Ms. Wagle spent three years reconstructing the boat, originally built in the early 17th century, from authentic materials, ultimately launching the Onrust on the Mohawk River in 2009. Since then, the Onrust has become a fixture at the Harbor Visitor Center in Waterford, New York, where individuals of all ages can learn more about the reconstructed ship and its historical counterpart. In recognition of these accomplishments, Greta Wagle has received honors from Schenectady County, the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York, and Prince Willem Alexander of the Netherlands.

Aside from her work with the Onrust, Greta Wagle maintains affiliation with several historical societies in Upstate New York and conducts research on Dutch and New Netherland history.                            

The Onrust - Recreating 17th-Century Dutch Shipbuilding Techniques

After several years of teaching Dutch and English to high school students in Belgium, Greta Wagle moved to the United States, where she resumed her teaching career. In 1989, she became an independent researcher into various issues related to the Dutch experience in the 17th century, both in Europe and the New World. Of the many projects Greta Wagle has been involved with since then, the most visible has been the Onrust Project.

The 44.5-foot wooden sailing yacht Onrust was built in the winter of 1614 to replace the Tyger, a similar ship that had been destroyed by fire. It was the first yacht built by Europeans in the New World. Built of local wood and iron rivets, the Onrust took the Dutch crew four months to build, following which the ship and its crew spent the next two years exploring the waterways of the northeast coast of North America. The maps they made were widely used for at least the next hundred years. The Onrust was last reported on an exploratory voyage to the Delaware River in 1616.

A replica of the Onrust, a 50-foot wooden sailing yacht bearing the same name, was built in a barn in Rotterdam Junction, New York, from 2005 until 2009. While some modern tools were used, the largely volunteer crew was dedicated to replicating the actual construction techniques. For example, planks for the boat’s side were curved by steaming them over roaring wood fires, just as the building crew did 400 years earlier.

The modern Onrust’s maiden voyage on the Mohawk River took place in May 2009, during the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Dutch exploration of the arrival in the New World. Currently berthed in Waterford, New York, the yacht acts as a floating museum that teaches the maritime history of the Mohawk and Hudson valleys, the impact of Dutch exploration in the 17th century, and the methods used to build seaworthy vessels.

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