The windless summer seemed to turn overnight into cold, blustery, gusty days. This week began with shorts and tank tops and is ending with three pairs of pants and four sweaters. Tea consumption has skyrocketed and no one even mentions the frozen yogurt place, even though we are in Poughkeepsie.
We have been fighting the weather all week. And sometimes, that means that we don’t go sailing. It’s ok though. We turned a few of our sails into dockside extravaganzas. Although the adventurer in me is frustrated, the educator in me is thrilled because in these conditions, so much more can be learned dockside. We still get to experience the river and the boat, but without concerns of materials flying overboard or spray shooting over the bow and soaking the students. We can even do cool things like look over the stern at the rudder or give students a tour of the engine room and bosun’s locker – places that are off limits while underway.
And after the program is over and we need to transit, we are reassured of our dockside decisions…
The last month of July and the first month of August hosted the Clearwater’s Youth Empowerment Programs, Young Men and Young Women at the Helm. These programs are a great way for the Clearwater to bring new people into our fold. The energy that these programs and their participants bring to the boat is often unbelievable. The crew often sees students for just three hours during a typical education program, and then not again unless by chance. But during these programs participants are onboard for three whole days and gain control and agency in the running of the Clearwater deck each day. Watching their progression is inspiring each year. These programs are in their sixth and thirteenth years of programming, and each year is a learning experience for the crew and an opportunity for us to try something new and exciting.
These programs are an investment in the Hudson River and its watershed. Students come from throughout the Valley and gain a great deal of knowledge about the Hudson and the very real environmental issues that it faces. By training these young folks in watershed education, we help them become more active participants in their environments.
One exciting part of this year has been our collaboration with the Achievement First Charter Network. The Achievement First Charter Network has an extensive summer internship program, which sends students to a wide variety of summer programming each year. This year, four students participated in the Youth Empowerment programs, and then volunteered for a week this summer. The Achievement First students did an amazing job, and watching them grow in their deck skills, their environmental knowledge, and their ownership of the river and the boat has been really wonderful. We hope they will come back for another volunteer week next year!
Shania and Joia breaking silence
Corey hauling on the peak halyard
This year we were able to get a great deal of wonderful pictures documenting the programs. View these at our Flickr account.
Each year about 15 young women from all over the Hudson Valley come together for Clearwater’s Young Women at the Helm. This program brings young people together for an intense three days of adventure, learning, and hard work. The first day always brings wary looks and exclamations of, “You want me to do what?!” But by the end of the third day, the young women are crewing the boat themselves and teaching each other about what they had learned just a few days before. We hope that after the program they can take this mindset back to their lives, use it to overcome challenges and become active players in their own communities and environments.
Here is a smattering of the activities from Young Women at the Helm 2015:
Furling the jib
Learning about watersheds in front of Storm King Mountain
Throwing docklines for Sloop Olympics
We did it!
In the Hudson River Valley, many invasive species plague our waterways, wetlands, and uplands. These fish, plants, and invertebrates are not native to our ecosystem and cause harm, often by out-competing native species or changing habitats. Usually invasive species do not have natural predators in the environment to which they are introduced, and their populations are able to grow, unchecked by predation!
Sam talks about invasive species and the Hudson River Watershed
Here at Clearwater, we are concerned about the many fish and plants that are invasive to our beloved Hudson River. On a sail with the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies, Clearwater’s Invasive Species Program Coordinator, Sam came aboard to teach passengers about Hudson River invasives.
Community members were engaged and asked lots of questions about what they can do to stop the spread of these organisms. One of the most proactive things boaters can do to stop aquatic invaders is, “Clean, Drain, Dry!” Most aquatic invasives spread via boating, so cleaning and draining your boat of water before entering a new waterway is imperative.
Sam also taught passengers about aquatic invasive plants like hydrilla. Passengers viewed examples of aquatic invasives displayed in our fish tank such as weather fish, goldfish, zebra mussels, and water chestnuts. It was a fantastic sail filled with learning, participation, and community education.
This summer we welcome two new crew members to our education team, Kate and Nicole.
Kate says, “I am from Cape Ann, Massachussetts, where I grew up messing around in boats, tidepooling, and collecting smelly treasures to go into natural ‘dioramas.’ I studied Earth and Environmental Science (geology!) at Wesleyan University and was lucky to spend my spring semester of 2014 on the Robert C. Seamans with SEA, studying climate science and singing on bow watch. After graduating about a month ago, I am super-excited to get back on the water to learn and teach about the Hudson River. In my free time, you will find me planting or picking flowers, cooking, and continuing to glue things together.”
Nicole says, “I was born and raised in the Ocean State, in Cumberland, Rhode Island. I recently graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in Biology and Environmental Sciences. This is my first time on a tall ship and I am super excited to live aboard and teach kids about the Hudson River! I really like insects, dancing, and long bike rides to nowhere. If I could own any exotic pet, it would be an orangutan and my favorite cheese is sharp cheddar.”
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.”