Throughout the Hudson Valley, people know Clearwater. Everyone has their own special relationship to the boat, to Pete, and to the River. Here are some Hudson Valley transplants’ reactions to this community:
During a day off in Haverstraw I ran into a gentleman on a bike path. After mentioning my association with Clearwater, he started talking exuberantly about his love for the Hudson River, Pete Seeger and his appreciation of Clearwater. On another day, while casting off the boat for a sunset sail off of Beacon, a man wandered down the dock, stared at the boat with a look of awe. Turns out he was on the boat in 1969 during the Clearwater’s first sail and taught some of the first education stations. He said that seeing the Clearwater was a spiritual experience. On a public sail, a woman stepped down the ladder, walked into the main cabin and placed a hand over her heart at the sight of Pete Seeger painting hanging there. She said that coming on the Clearwater brought tears to her eyes.
People throughout the valley form a long lasting connection with the Clearwater. Former crew members and volunteers come every year to wake up, swab the deck, teach about the river, and sing Pete Seeger songs at night. Past cooks drop in for dinner and old Captains come back to drive. Whether they work on the Clearwater or live in the Hudson Valley, people seem to feel a everlasting connection to the legacy of Pete Seeger and the continuing work of the Clearwater.
In the month preceding this “little adventure,” I lost track of how many times people told me how difficult it would be. In order to keep my land connections alive, I am working a part-time gig in Kingston on my days off the boat. It has been weeks of straight WORK, and I would be lying if I said that this isn’t one of the most challenging things I have ever done.
That being said, I have found myself waking up with a bigger smile and a lot more energy than anticipated. Having professional background in a couple outdoor education/experiential learning programs, it is easy to pick out some of the things that make Clearwater’s programming so unique. Students gain ownership of their learning environment at the very beginning through raising the mainsail together. The traditional Moment of Silence ties students to the river, but also to each other and everyone who has sailed on the Good Sloop and taken in the river before them. And of course, who can forget petting the river’s [arguably] cutest fish, the hogchoker. There is something so very special about all of this.
I imagine myself one day (several years from now, of course) sitting within the four walls of an office and contemplating my time on the Clearwater. As exhausted as I tend to be in the tenth hour of my work day in the here and now, I doubt that this feeling will be what comes to mind. Instead, I know I will celebrate how exhilarating this whole experience has been and will continue to be.