Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletApril 23, 2017

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Ship Made from CSJ's 350-Year-Old Swamp White Oak Is Launched


by Sister Mary Ellen Putnam, CSJ (Sister George Ann)

May 21, 2009, dawned with a magnificent sunrise and assurances from area TV stations that the day would be sunny, clear and in the 80s. Perfect! Sisters Carol Rohfoff, Mary Rose Fox and I met at the C-Wing entrance and headed for Rotterdam Junction. Today was the day the ONRUST, the ship bearing our 350+ year old Swamp Oak and 165 trunnels, was being launched. Needless to say, I was excited.

When we arrived, we were directed to a ‘special’ parking place for the sisters who donated the Swamp Oak, right near the pole barn where the ship was secured to a huge flat bed.  A bull dozer hooked onto the cab of the truck and pulled the sixteen-ton ship out of its birthing place after three years of being built from scratch by volunteers with donated money using seventeenth-century techniques. There she sat in her glory, all painted and polished for her maiden voyage.

Greta Wagle, project manager, and Don Rittner, Schenectady County Historian, the dreamers for this project, stood proudly as Greta christened the ship with a bottle of beer made in the Netherlands, as was their custom. The large crowd cheered and clapped as Don read the names of the contributors and volunteers with special thanks to the Sisters of St. Joseph for their donation of a 350-year-old Swamp Oak. I was bursting with pride for us!
 
After securing large, heavy bands around the middle and back of the ship to balance the weight distribution, the biggest crane I’ve ever seen began to lift the masterpiece off the flatbed, over the bank and into the Mohawk River. Lock 8 had to be closed, and Lock 9 opened in the morning to raise the river two feet to accommodate the depth of the rudder.
 
The captain ,Gioia Blix, a petite, energetic woman, boarded the ONRUST and disappeared into the hold to check for any problems while a tugboat waited nearby, and several boaters watched in awe. Once the ship was approved as seaworthy, Gioia would pilot her up to Lock 9 for a celebration. Gioia told me, “I need to learn her moves, motions and quirks if we are to work together.” The ONRUST will be docked at the Maybee Farm for the next several days, so that the last touches can be completed.
 
Watch your local news and newspapers for schedules of when the ONRUST will be sailing. On June 6, she will sail to New York and lead several Tall Ships to Albany for the 400th anniversary of the Hudson River.
 
Since the ONRUST will be used as a teaching museum, sailing the Mohawk and Hudson River, our legacy of teaching will continue through our very own Swamp Oak and gifting of the trunnels.  What a wonderful, auspicious day! 
 

The OnRust as it is being lowered into the river on May 20, 2009