It’s been a frenetic week aboard sloop Clearwater, but all the energy moved generally in the right direction. Completing our week in Red Hook only fortified our good feelings about the neighborhood and our resolve to return. Highlights of our visit there, beside the obvious and previously mentioned harbor inhabitants caught in our net, were many:

* Saturday night, after an astoundingly beautiful sail, the crew adjourned to Sunny’s Bar, a historic site in its own right and serving the sailors at the waterfront since 1890, for a great grassroots bluegrass jam session. The small bar was filled with guitars and banjos, plus mandolin, lap steel guitar and an upright bass—and the music didn’t finish up until just shy of 4 AM. I was even convinced to bust out a song or two, and the crowd graciously sat through “Bell Bottom Trousers,” a randy sea shantey I wouldn’t dream of singing with students on board despite the fact that I prefer a “cleaner” version, and a song I learned from my twin brother, “Old Zeb,” about an aging schoonerman from Martha’s Vineyard. I emerged from the bar with my crew tired but happy, and looking forward to adding many of our new musical friends to our sailing roster.
Sunny's Bar

* Time off from deck tours afforded the crew the opportunity to gain a little culture. They toured the shops and galleries along Van Brunt Street, stopping in as well at the free art show in the warehouse next door presented by the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition. They were also treated to tours of David Sharp’s Waterfront Museum and show barge, a beautifully restored wooden barge that presents programs in history and theater.
Museum Barge

* In addition to the utterly convenient proximity of the Fairway market, Red Hook is home to another food vendor with a very specific product. Steve’s Key Lime Pie shop was just a short walk away and more than satisfied my aggressive sweet tooth. He’s been making fresh Key lime pies for over twenty years and has invented perhaps the best dessert on earth: a Key lime tart dipped in dark chocolate known as the “swingle.” I could eat at least one swingle every day for the rest of my life—that’s how damn delicious this hybrid creation is.
Key Lime Pie

* Amid the sticky heat of mid-summer, nothing is more precious to a sailing crew than a shower, and the kind folks at Pier 41 were gracious to oblige. Thanks for the showers go out to Dave, restorer and builder of violins, cellos and other stringed instruments, who owns the cutest little block plane I have ever seen; and to Sandor & Gloria, proprietors of the Liberty Sunset Garden Center. An oasis of green among the bricks and stone, they carry a spectrum of living things ranging from exotic plants to heirloom tomatoes to deep red hibiscuses. When they came sailing, they brought with them a lovely gift of a plumeria plant, my favorite flower from the South Pacific, and I will pour my heart into keeping it alive on board.
Littlest Plane Ever

On Thursday night—the day before my birthday—I had the opportunity to work for Clearwater in a different way. The “Big Surprise” Tour was in town at the Beacon theater, with our old friends from the Revival, Old Crow Medicine Show and the Felice Brothers, joined by Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch and Justin Townes Earle. We were invited to standby at a Clearwater exhibit in the lobby to spread the good word and interact with the crowd. It was a fantastic show and a great way to usher in my birthday. More importantly, it was during those conversations with the crowd that I began to realize the power of our Brooklyn visit. Many folks that I spoke with had actually gotten word somehow of our visit, had toured the boat there or had told their friends to check it out. Everyone we spoke with asked excitedly when we would return this year.

The answer (because I know all of you out there reading this are waiting to hear) is YES! We will be back in mid-October for several days. Now that we know we can stay there safely, this time we will give everyone proper and ample notice. We will plan for official public deck tours and public sails, plus create partner programs with the Waterfront Museum, the local urban farm outfit, Added Value, and local artists. Also in mind: hootenannies and fundraisers at the local watering holes—perhaps with some Key lime pie…

We have a busy couple of months ahead of us, but both Clearwater and the Red Hook community are abuzz with the possibilities, and all are looking forward to another warm homecoming to the borough. Check our website and our sailing schedule for updates, and we’ll see you then!