Like so many people, the beloved sloop has played a huge role in my life. I have a million stories from the decks of that fine boat but let me share with you one afternoon that will never fade from focus in my memories.
Pat Niemistö on guitar, Paul Niemistö on bass, Maija Niemistö on mandolin, Maura Niemistö on mandolin. In the center, Maija’s daughter, Adalais, learning the family musical tradition aboard the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.
I worked aboard Clearwater for years, with all the excitement and challenges that come with that life. My parents are both music teachers from the Midwest, and while they’ve always been supportive of my adventurous spirit, it took them a long time to understand what exactly I was doing sailing on this old ship so far from home. I managed to make the salty lifestyle sound exciting enough at annual family holidays to convince my cousin, Maura, to join the crew. With both of us hauling halyards, catching fish, and climbing the rigging, we eventually convinced our dads to come for a visit.
The brothers packed up their stringed instruments with the promise that if they came to the Hudson River, we’d pick a few tunes with them. There was nothing that made my dad and his younger brother, my Uncle Pat, happier than practicing and performing music with their daughters.
I will never forget that being on a public sail not so long ago on Clearwater gave us an excuse to sing a few songs together as a family band. Fathers and daughters. Wind in the sails. Simple yet profound.
Our dads realized we hadn’t run away to sea but had run directly towards those things they both held so dear, teaching kids and making music. It was while we sang in four-part harmony sailing on the ever-moving waters of the Hudson River that we forged a memory together that will be part of our family history forever.
As a parent of my own daughter, I see how many hours, days, months, and years of nurturing lead up to culminating shared moments between parents and children.
Clearwater holds us together in harmony.
Maija Liisa Niemistö