On a chilly morning by the Marist waterfront, I pulled up to the dock to see a majestic ship anchored in the Hudson River that looked like something out of the 1800’s. A sophomore at Marist College, I was given the unique opportunity to attend graduation commencement—from the sloop Clearwater. Three brave crew members rowed a group of us to the sloop and we climbed aboard for a mid-May afternoon sail.
Twenty of us total were aboard the Clearwater, from all different walks of life, and we eagerly listened to the ship’s Educator of the day for what was in store. Our first task as Hudson River voyagers was to raise the sails. We sang a shanty and joyously heave-hoed until the massive white sail cast a shadow on half the boat—most of us made our way to the sunny side to enjoy the ride as the motor was cut.
We sailed around and mingled amongst ourselves and the crew; a sense of camaraderie is shared between strangers when surrounded by water, in the navigational hands of a pre-teen who asked the captain to steer the tiller.
In the tradition of all Clearwater sails, the Educator aboard gave us the opportunity to learn a bit about the ecology of the river by introducing us to a small eel caught earlier that week. Though in the wild, any one of us might have shied away from the slimy creature, some lined up to pet the little guy.
Next, we got a tour of the cabin below deck. Light shone in from little stained glass portholes along the hull’s interior woodwork and an image of Pete Seeger, the founder of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Organization hangs prominently in the common area.
With every sail, the crew honors a moment of silence to value the river that is part of so many people’s lives. We all took a moment to be completely present, taking in the scenery and appreciating the splendor around us. Waves lapped on the sides of the hull, the ship creaked, and the youngest kids aboard looked at their mothers, pressing a finger on their lips in a silent “shhhh”. The silence was broken with a folk song, we sat and listened to the guitar, clarinet, makeshift drums and vocals of several crew members, reminding us how simply beautiful life can be.
Upon receiving word that Marist’s graduation had concluded, we set off a signal cannon in celebration for the 2015 grads and headed back to the dock. We dispersed to our cars and I headed home with visions of my Hudson River dancing around my mind. Being a student at Marist, I spend a lot of time walking past the library where the view of the Hudson is best. It’s a big part of our lives, yet something we don’t take a lot of time to appreciate as students. This trip reminded me how special this river is to our region and that it is everyone’s duty to care for it in order for its full revival.
– Kristen Semple