Finding the Silver Lining

By Maija Niemisto, Director of Shipboard Education

This spring season, the Hudson Valley has seen all extremes of weather, from an abnormally cold April and a surprisingly windy May, to June’s unexpected heat wave. The crew aboard Clearwater has felt it all.  The sailors, educators and volunteers who live aboard the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater wake with the sun each morning and spend all day, every day out in the elements leading kids of all ages through exciting adventures on the water.

Just like the human body has a surprisingly narrow window of comfort when it comes to temperature, sailboats and tall ships are also finicky about how much wind they prefer. Clearwater is designed with a huge amount of sail area high up to catch the wifty-wafty winds blowing across the majestic Hudson Highlands. She also has a centerboard that can be raised or lowered to allow her access to the shallow waters of Haverstraw Bay, or provide stability in heavy winds that blow in from the Atlantic each evening as the sun dips below the horizon.

Sometimes, despite the sloop’s excellent design for this river, the weather reminds us how delicate our fine ship, and we ourselves, really are. The spring has given the crew a weekly challenge – be it too hot, too cold, too windy, or too calm – they have made the most of every occasion.

On May 7th, Clearwater was scheduled to sail from the 79th Street Boat Basin in Manhattan with a boat full of excited Public Sail passengers. As the passengers boarded the boat and found their seats for the captain’s safety talk, the wind gustily blew hats from heads and hair into eyes. Captain Loge assured the passengers and crew that we would do our best to deliver a safe, exciting and educational experience out on the Hudson River together.

 After assessing the situation that blustery evening, Captain Loge gave the news that passengers dread; we would be unable to get off the dock safely and that evening’s Public Sail would be a dockside program. Our Coast Guard-licensed captains are responsible for the safety of hundreds of school children every week and go to great lengths to maintain our impeccable safety record.

After the anticipated initial disappointment, we invited our passengers on a “backstage” tour of the boat to see many of the places they are unable to visit due to safety restrictions while Clearwater is sailing. The foredeck, quarterdeck, engine room, and holds are intriguing corners of the boat that the public rarely gets to explore. Many enjoyed picnics of wine and cheese without the added challenge of a pitching deck and crew scrambling around handling sails. With a healthy stock of fish in the tank and a crew harboring an inexhaustible enthusiasm to share their passion and knowledge with others, no matter what the conditions, these passengers got a unique and personal evening aboard Clearwater.

In true Pete Seeger fashion, the crew and passengers joined together in boisterous song to close out a truly lovely evening together on the banks of the Hudson. The real silver lining for the night did not surface until a few weeks later when eight passengers decided to join the Clearwater family.

One passenger, Michael Blaustein, played guitar all evening with the crew and joined the boat the following week as a volunteer. He spent a week aboard sailing and teaching with the crew as the boat sailed from Manhattan and Brooklyn. Jake Schwartz, a young passenger who lent his voice in song, will be joining Clearwater this summer as a two-week Youth Intern in pursuit of a crew position. Three couples visiting from California were so excited about sailing that they were the very first passengers to book sails when the schedule was released in February. They declined the refund offered to all passengers and donated their payment to Clearwater. Suzan Mastroianni, a member of this group, said:

“The cancelled sail was a disappointment. However, the crew did everything they could to ease the pain, giving us tours of the boat (quite interesting!), encouraging us to stay on board and picnic, and even forming themselves into an informal folk music combo for our entertainment. Thank you to everyone involved with the Clearwater project, it ultimately affects us all.”

Many thanks to all of our passengers who have joined the Clearwater community in a meaningful way and continue to help us to carry on educating and inspiring every person who crosses the decks of this historic boat. If you see the sloop sailing by this spring or follow the boat’s path online, keep the captains and crew in mind. They are out there every day in all kinds of weather, dedicating their lives to a great cause that “ultimately affect us all.”

Join us on a Public Sail to learn how you too can become part of Clearwater’s legacy.

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