Sloop Volunteer Week: Rebecca Yeomans

Every year, we take thousands of students and adults out on the Clearwater. We have a tireless crew, great interns, knowledgeable educators, and a well-respected program. None of it would be possible without the volunteers who each give a week of their time to come onboard, teach, sail, learn, and live with the crew on the sloop. This year, we have a great need for more volunteers. (Click here to apply.)

Here’s the story of one of our past volunteers, in her own words:


in Todos Santos 2013

Rebecca Yeomans first volunteered onboard in 1986, returned in 2013 and again last season.

S. Rebecca Yeomans, PhD

“When one of my nephews was close to finishing college I asked him what he wanted for a graduation present.  To my surprise he said he wanted us to do something together.  It wasn’t like we hadn’t had fun times together. Among other things we had canoe-camped on the Suwannee River with alligators sunning on the sandbars (though we did not tell his mother that part), tagged sea turtles on Wassaw Island and he had visited the cool environmental education center in Savannah where I worked.  So what could we do that would be a better together-thing than all that? I had to come up with something really spectacular. What could top all that?  What about volunteering on a 106-foot replica of a Hudson River Sloop?

I signed up and luckily Clearwater accepted us to come aboard in July 1986.  Kate Cronin was captain. Beth Doxsee (who later captained the Clearwater) was bosun.  What was the week like?  The schedule was unusual. It was Liberty Week, the official reopening of the Statue of Liberty after its restoration. We would have students a few days, then we would transit to a dock by the Brooklyn Bridge and prepare for the July 4th celebration complete with fireworks and participation in the Tall Ship Parade, at the time one of the biggest ever. When the parade began no one envied Captain Cronin who had to navigate all the boat traffic. You really should Google the archived pics of the harbor that day.

What stands out for me about the week?  What stood out for me was not that the majority of the crew played multiple musical instruments, not that the galley was equipped with a wood-burning stove where our food was prepared, not that the students were so engaged with the critters from our trawls. It was this.  I love to sail but I had expected the Clearwater to poke along, after all it was a big heavy wooden boat sailing in a river. Not what happened. On our transit day we had great wind and Captain Kate Cronin, it turns out, also liked to sail. We flew along the Hudson!  It was fabulous.

Another thing that stands out was my trip up to the top of the mast, not to hold on tight and look around to take pictures. No, the bosun needed help painting. I was not to be a mast-tourist, we were both up there, safely clipped in, while we sanded and painted, about 100 feet above the deck.

There is more but you really need to volunteer, perhaps with a nephew, and have your own experience. The take-home is this. If you are looking for a great present to yourself or a friend, you can’t go wrong with sharing a week on the Sloop Clearwater. You might just have as much fun as the students who come aboard! ” –S. Rebecca Yeomans

S. Rebecca Yeomans is a college professor who resides in Darien, Georgia.

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