Wednesday, March 4, 2009
For eight years, Capt. Samantha Heyman (below) of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater (right) has wanted to bring her ship to Brooklyn. This summer, she will get her wish.
From July 30 to Aug. 2, the Clearwater (a 108-foot wooden replica of an 18th- and 19th-century traditional cargo vessel) will be docked near the Fairway Cafe in Red Hook, said Captain Heyman. Normally, the ship’s stay at any given dock would be two to five days, but in this case, “there is the possibility that it could be extended,” she said.
This particular dock is owned by Tom Fox, the president of New York Water Taxi. Heyman is grateful to him, as well as property owner Greg O’Connell, for their generous support.
She explained that the Brooklyn location for the Clearwater is ideal for many reasons. It has “the best fishing in the Hudson River estuary,” and is wide open enough for the wake from other boats “not to get too vicious.” When sailing in the East River, the ride can “become uncomfortable,” Heyman added, saying that sometimes the ship can even slam into its dock.
Heyman also wanted to dock the Clearwater in Brooklyn because “it’s a great community. We have a pretty loyal group of members in Brooklyn.” She said these members are so loyal they will take the subway for more than an hour to make it to docks in uptown Manhattan for a 9 a.m. departure.
The Clearwater is a “member-supported organization” and it needs this enthusiasm and loyalty. Which is why it held a benefit at the Brooklyn Brewery last week.
Heyman explained that she wants to raise money through “an initiative of small grassroots events,” like the one at the Brewery. For $20, people who went to the benefit heard several local bands, drank Brooklyn Brewery beer and ate food from a local deli.
“I want to do it again, we had such a good time,” Heyman said.
This kind of grassroots approach was “how Pete [Seeger] raised the money to build the boat in the first place,” said Heyman, referring to the singer’s mission in 1966 to get the public to care about threatened waterways by caring for one boat. The Clearwater was launched in 1969.
Today, children can take school field trips on the ship, which last three hours. The programs the Clearwater holds vary depending on the group, because students from fourth grade through college can sail.
The group of students usually ranges from 40 to 45, and when they get on the boat they help throw out a fishing net. They put the fish they catch into aquariums on the boat to study and learn about them. The Clearwater has a catch-and-release license, explained Heyman, who has caught starfish and even two sea horses in New York Harbor.
During the sail, students take turns steering the ship, they help raise the sail, and are divided into groups that visit stations around the vessel. They can learn the chemistry of the water, get close up to the fish they caught and see what it’s like to live on a boat.
Heyman explained that an overall lesson the students learn is how to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
“When we turn the engine off and are only on the sails, we relate it to riding a bike instead of driving a car,” she explained. Seeing what life is like for the 17 crew members living on the Clearwater teaches students about conservation and living with less.
“Seventeen people can live in a situation with limited resources,” Heyman said. There are no napkins, paper plates or plastic water bottles. She wants students to see that “it is possible to live well without so much stuff.”
But you don’t have to be a student to board the Clearwater. Public sails are offered, where you can sign up with a group or come to just “relax and enjoy yourself” on the boat, she said.
And during every sail, Captain Heyman says that there is always a moment of complete quiet, where the group on the boat can sail in silence. This is to show students that their trip on the Clearwater isn’t just about learning, it’s about enjoying it too.
Photos courtesy of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.
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