Every so often, I look through old things. Today’s discovery was my college application essay, written soon after the Summer That Changed the Course of my Life. Like many people in the Clearwater family, I started as a week-long volunteer…and never looked back. Here is the essay’s ending:
“During my grand journey up the River, I also learned the history of Pete Seeger, his mission to clean up the formerly toxic Hudson River and how he started the Clearwater Organization. His success story of grassroots activism shows that if you really believe in something and work hard to achieve it, change can happen. I have always known that I want to be part of local movements, but that week, I realized that it is possible for me to make a difference within one of these movements. This is what I thought of, when on the last day of my adventure, I proudly went swimming in that beautiful, healthy River.”
Now I am lucky enough to still be a part of this movement and community, and as onboard educator, in a position to help hundreds of children and adults find their fit in Clearwater and discover the magic of the Hudson River as I did.
Caitlin at 17. Not much has changed.
The best part about teaching on the river are the constant surprises and distractions that the Hudson has to offer. No two sails are alike because we never know what the lands and waters have in store for us that day.
Sometimes, in the middle of a trawl talk, we go by the Rondout Light House and need a moment to take it in.
Photo: Grace Ballou
Other times, not one, but TWO tugs are transporting a piece of the new Tappan Zee southward.
Photo: Jim Roy
When you are at West Point, sometimes the cadets practice repelling out of helicopters.
Photo: Sophia McCloy
More and more frequently, we pause activities to look at a bald eagle soaring overhead.
Photo: Bob Rightmyer
All of these things take our planned activities somewhere new – we talk about how people today still rely on things transported by the river, the history of different peoples on the river, how the eagle was almost gone from here but is coming back, stronger than ever. All these threads together create the complex and beautiful story of the Hudson River.
The end of my education internship is quickly approaching. The Great Hudson River Revival, Clearwater’s annual festival, is next weekend and my last education sails are this week. I find myself already missing the good sloop Clearwater! It is without a doubt these last few weeks will be memorable. While docked at Cold Spring, we woke up with Storm King Mountain and Breakneck Ridge off our bow and West Point sitting above our stern. It was a beautiful sight during morning deck wash, watching the clouds roll off the mountains. During our stay in Cold Spring the fearless volunteers, apprentices and educators went purse seining as the sun was setting. We caught some white perch, banded killifish, tessellated darters, and mummichugs. A few select fish stayed in our onboard fish tank and were featured during our life station on our education sails. The life station is one of my favorite stations because participants are always surprised by the diversity, productivity and life in the Hudson River!
The lovely Peter joined us for the month of May all the way from Copenhagen, Denmark! In the twenty minutes before he caught the train to begin his journey back to Europe, Peter wrote this song.
Peter is the tall one.
When the last line is cast and the Clearwater sets its sail,
the freight train saluted on its way across the rails.
As the main sail goes up we salute the Mid Hudson Bridge,
singing so loud they will hear us from the Catskill Ridge.
Am – C G / C G C Am / Am – C G / C G C Am
So come up all ye sailor kids and sing along with me,
this song that we are singing will blow us to the sea.
The songs of the Clearwater shall spread this spirit ’round.
Hogchokers and copepods in our nets will be found.
We are riding on the River’s ebbing tide,
tacking along the river side to side.
Steering on the tiller at the captain’s commands,
Watching for the weather as we’re passing the Highlands.
The winds are wifty-wafty, but our jib tender’s awake,
we are making all this happen for the Hudson River’s sake.
This past week Gracie spent a few days aboard the Mystic Whaler where she got to experience the lower estuary, and all of its wonders.
Flounder caught by Pat of the Mystic Whaler
“This past week I had the opportunity to live and work on the schooner Mystic Whaler, while docked on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The Whaler participates in Clearwater education programming each spring, but because of the ecological differences along the estuary, the discussions onboard were different than those that I had been experiencing upriver. The mountains and valleys upriver are replaced with endless buildings and skyscrapers in NYC. While at the navigation station, students determine the boat’s location using landmarks (towers, flagpoles, spires) and a chart. Picking out distinct landmarks in the harbor while watching ferries, tour boats and cargo ships was a challenge, yet endlessly engaging. At the water quality and the fish stations, my typical introduction about freshwater was irrelevant since we were sailing through the saltiest water in the estuary. The fish that we caught, like the pictured flounder, would never be found upriver. When it was time to return to the Clearwater, I reflected on how much the Hudson River ecology changes just between NYC and Beacon and how unique this estuary is.”