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Clearwater: Floating the People's Boat 

Sloop Clearwater Tacks a Course Toward Restoration

click to enlarge Sloop Clearwater in drydock in Kingston.
  • Sloop Clearwater in drydock in Kingston.

The Stonewall of the environmental movement," explains Peter Gross, Executive Director of Clearwater, "was the battle for Storm King Mountain." It was the first time conservationists (Pete Seeger among them) banded together against a vested corporate interest and won, preventing a major construction project that would have radically altered the landscape of the Hudson Highlands. It's no coincidence that a few years after the initial victory in court, Sloop Clearwater embarked on its maiden voyage. Born from the battle of Storm King Mountain, the sloop is seen by many as the standard-bearing flagship of the modern environmental movement. For almost 50 years, it's plied the Hudson, spreading the message of environmental stewardship and responsibility, hosting over half a million people on its decks. Fifty years, though impressive, takes its toll on a boat, and this winter marks the largest of three state-mandated renovations the sloop has undergone to keep her seaworthy.

The ship's design was already over a hundred years old at the time of its construction, built to be reminiscent of sloops that sailed the river hundreds of years prior. These ships typically had an operating life of 15 years, which puts the necessity of the project into perspective. While New York State has generously contributed close to $500,000, Clearwater still has a long road ahead of it to reach the $850,000 needed to complete the project. In the grassroots tradition the organization helped pioneer, it's relying on the community to raise money by passing the hat, hosting several "Open Boat" potluck fundraising events. (The Hudson River Maritime Museum will be the spot of the next event on December 12, from 4-8pm.) Last month, the ship docked in Kingston, where the Riverport Wooden Boat Building School will supervise repairs. The organization hopes to get the sloop back in the water by May so it can catch the next group of schoolchildren before summer.

Pete Seeger called the Clearwater the "people's boat," and almost 50 years later, it's depending on the people to stay afloat. To offer your support, visit Clearwater.org/float-the-boat.

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