We are excited to announce our dates and locations for our 2024 Youth Empowerment Programs. For the first time since the pandemic, we will be running all three of these programs for teens: Queerwater, Young Women at the Helm, and Young Men at the Helm!

Each of Clearwater’s Youth Empowerment Programs is a no-cost three-day adventure on the mighty Hudson River, offering a one of a kind experience of scenic beauty, bonding, and personal achievement. Our three unique multi-day programs connect youth to the Hudson River as they sail onboard the historic sloop Clearwater and camp along the river’s shores.

Participants are involved in a wide range of physical and academic activities in small groups and as a larger team. Onboard, participants experience activities in ecology, water quality, sailing, and navigation. The two nights of the program are spent camping on shore, meeting with guest speakers, and relaxing alongside the beautiful Hudson River. Many past participants have later returned to the boat as volunteers and crew members.

In our 2024 season, we will run the following Youth Empowerment Programs:


July 19th-21st, 2024

Drop-off and pick-up at Dyckman Marina in New York City

Young Women at the Helm:

August 2nd-4th, 2024

Drop-off and pick-up at Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie

Young Men at the Helm:

August 16th-18th, 2024

Drop-off and pick-up at Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie

**We will work with you to ensure that you are able to get to and from your Youth Empowerment Program, regardless of location, covering the cost if need be!

Clearwater is committed to empowering and educating LGTBQ+ youth and allies to become the next generation of environmental and community leaders. In addition to sailing and exploring topics focused on the Hudson River, program participants learn about the development of the environmental and LGBTQ+ movements and how to be a leader in both. Former crew members who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community will be returning to talk about their experiences. Additional guest speakers will discuss community leadership, personal challenges, and the opportunities open to LGBTQ+ youth.

While it is officially called LGBTQ+Allies Youth at the Helm, may people call this program Queerwater. The name originated in the Eighties when the first large cohort of out LGB crewmembers worked on the Clearwater. When the crews of other boats in the area started calling the boat Queerwater in response, this crew embraced the name and now it serves as the unofficial name of our youth empowerment programs for the LGBTQ+ community.

Click Here for LGBTQ+Allies at the Helm program photos and testimonials.

After eight successful years of the Young Women at the Helm program, 2009 saw the Youth Empowerment Programs expand to include both Young Men at the Helm and LGBTQ+ Allies at the Helm, adding relevant speakers and topics for each group aboard.  Since then, Young Men at the Helm has seen hundreds of fifteen to eighteen year olds experience the Hudson River from the new perspective of the Clearwater.  Many past participants have gone on to be leaders in their communities and in environmental and maritime professions.

The first Clearwater Youth Empowerment Program was Young Women at the Helm was in 2001. The program was designed to encourage young women from the Hudson Valley without regular access to the river to get engaged in sailing and to see themselves as active role models and environmental leaders.  Past participants have gone on to accomplish that vision as teachers, community organizers, scientists, and Clearwater crew members.

First, submit your application. To access our application, click HERE.

Once you submit your application it will be reviewed by Clearwater’s education staff.

Following this review an Onboard Program Coordinator will contact you to get to know you and answer any questions you have about the program. If you’re a good fit and there is room available, Clearwater will need to speak to your parent or guardian to answer any of their questions and ensure that you have permission to participate. Once we have permission for you to come aboard for the program, we will send you all information you need to get ready for the program!

Every day aboard the sloop Clearwater is different, depending on the weather and the goals for the day.  A typical full day during a youth empowerment program looks a bit like this:

Mornings begin with taking down tents and deckwash when the decks are scrubbed with salt water to clean and preserve the wood.  Afterwards our dedicated cook serves breakfast, which could be anything from eggs to muffins to breakfast burritos and beyond!  Once all the breakfast dishes are cleaned and put away we set sail to explore the river in the best way we know how.  Setting sail is a task that requires the entire group to work together to accomplish our goal.  Once the sails are set we break into smaller groups, called watches, to learn more about specific things, ranging from history to ecology to knot tying to learning how the Clearwater‘s diesel engine works.

There is a break in the middle of the day for lunch, followed by more small and large group activities.  In the late afternoon the boat will dock, followed by tent setup up and another deckwash.  There may be free time or a group activity before dinner.

Following dinner there is an evening activity, which may take place around a bonfire.  This is typically when guest speakers are present to talk about their experiences and take questions from the group.  This and any final evening activities are followed by time to get ready for bed.  Lights out will be determined and announced by the education coordinator and begins a period of quiet that lasts until wake ups the next day.

  • Hudson River Ecology
  • History
  • Navigation & Sail Theory
  • Water Quality
  • Mechanical Advantage
  • Art & Music
  • Geoscience
  • Rowing, Seining, Trawling, & Climbing Aloft
  • Knots & Sailors’ Skills

The first Clearwater Youth Empowerment Program was Young Women at the Helm was in 2001. The program was designed to encourage young women from the Hudson Valley without regular access to the river to get engaged in sailing and to see themselves as active role models and environmental leaders. The program ran over three days in mid-summer. Participants sampled experiential activities involving ecology, pollution, sailing and navigation. In 2009, the Youth Empowerment Programs expanded to include both Young Men at the Helm and LGBTQ+ Allies at the Helm (aka Queerwater), adding relevant speakers and topics for each group aboard. Since the inception of these programs, many of the participants have gone on to work onboard the Clearwater as crew members, as well as succeed in environmental, teaching, and maritime careers.

Can I come back if I have participated in the program in a previous year?

Yes! It’s as simple as applying again.

What kind of food do we eat?

We have a dedicated cook aboard Clearwater who makes fabulous food for the crew and participants, using local ingredients when possible. We try to accommodate all dietary needs, but keep in mind that we have a limited galley and cannot make individual meals for all participants!

Where do we sleep?

Participants will camp on shore each night of the program. We will provide camping equipment, including tents.  We recommend bringing your own sleeping bag, but have some available as needed.

How many other participants will be there?

We have openings for 25 total participants, but depending on the program we may have fewer participants.

Does this program cost money?

No! This is a free program!

How do I get to the boat the day the trip starts?

You can find directions to all of our docks on the Dock Directions page.

My schedule is busy that week, is there another way I can get involved with Clearwater?

Yes! You can apply to be a youth volunteer here, or you can come aboard with family and friends on one of our public sails.

Will there be electricity?

No, except in the case of an emergency. There is some electricity used aboard the ship for various shipboard activities, but participants will not have access to electricity for their own electronic devices.

Our 2023 Youth Empowerment Programs were funded in part by grants from the Hudson River Valley Greenway and the Malcolm Gordon Charitable Fund – Open Space Institute.