Oct 232012
 

We had a great transit up to Beacon the other day. It was cold, wet and windy, but we made the best of it (see photos below). And to top off a fantastic sail up the river, Captain Nick walked up to me as we neared out destination and told me that as long as it wasn’t too windy, he wanted me to take the boat in. It was a first for me, not just on Clearwater, but ever. I felt a twinge of nervousness, but excitement about attempting to maneuver 108 feet of traditional tall-ship to the dock prevailed.

Nick was the most fantastic teacher, letting me call the shots and try out my instincts as much as possible, but with full assurance that he would step in if necessary.  And it went great! I didn’t crash the boat, and Nick didn’t need to do too much, but more importantly I felt really good at the helm. I’ve docked her twice more since then, and I can’t wait for another chance.

Clearwater approaches the George Washington Bridge during a north-bound transit up the Hudson.

Clearwater approaches the George Washington Bridge during a north-bound transit up the Hudson. An overcast sky, half-hearted drizzle, and gusty winds were not surprising conditions at this time of year.

"Get out the topsail. You can set it however you want, except where it normally goes."

“Get out the topsail. You can set it however you want, except how it’s supposed to go.”

So we set it how we wanted.

So we set it how we wanted.

Clearwater's topsail set as a spinnaker.

Clearwater's enormous jib full of wind, as seen from the tip of the bowsprit.

Clearwater’s enormous jib full of wind, as seen from the tip of the bowsprit.

A pretty nice day after all.

A pretty nice day after all.

Oct 122012
 

One big mast, one big sailAlright, it’s time for some updates. The last two and a half months on Clearwater have been incredibly full. Lots of beautiful sailing up and down the Hudson, visits to the city, a festival here and there, and lots of teaching. I can’t believe it, but my contract is more than half over, and my planning for next steps is in full swing.

I found out while I was in Tasmania that I’m eligible for what they call a working holiday visa. I didn’t know about this visa when I went. Everyone should know about this! If I had I’m sure I would have applied for it and worked (rather than volunteered) during my time there. This 12 month visa is available to people with undergraduate degrees up to and including the age of 30, and allows them to seek temporary employment, spending no more than six months in each job. The idea is to facilitate cultural exchange between participating countries by making it easier for young people to visit.

Outboard practice in Tas.So, with a partner in Tasmania, a closing window of eligibility for this visa, and some Tasmanian qualifications, I’m planning on returning to the apple isle again in the New Year. My most exciting prospects for jobs in Hobart are working on a sight-seeing boat as a tour guide, running boats at a fish farm, and working on research vessels for UTAS or CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. My goals for my next job are to get a lot of experience handling a small boat, or work on a boat with some scientific overlap, be it field observation or research.

Hopefully Iain and I will also have time to do some travel around the mainland, see some of the outback and the great barrier reef…maybe even another trip to New Zealand? A transit by sea is of course also in the world of possibilities. Right now I’m still in the planning stages, but I’m getting excited for a return to such a beautiful place.

Wineglass Bay, just one of the many gorgeous spots I'm looking forward to visiting again on my return to Tasmania.

Wineglass Bay, just one of the many gorgeous spots I’m looking forward to visiting again on my return to Tasmania. Photo by Iain.

Oct 102012
 

I’m trying to get myself back into regular posting amidst a busy fall season and limited internet access, so I thought posting some random photos from the last couple of months on Clearwater would be a nice start…

Coffee and work.

Coffee and work.

The government won't set you free. Chores will set you free.

The government won’t set you free. Chores will set you free.

Unfouling the pennant at anchor.

Unfouling the pennant at anchor.

 

Aug 192012
 

When I was on Windeward Bound, I had an idea to post about all of the little innovations and solutions I saw on Winde for problems or annoyances I’d experienced on other boats. Things got busy and I never got around to it, but I’ve had the same thought about Clearwater after seeing so many clever improvements to old designs. Here are some shots of the best new twists on old ideas. I think the gem of the bunch is the leak-free butterfly hatch.

Dorade boxes: A dorade box is a very cool invention itself. It allows ventilation below decks without letting rain and spray in. These are the first I've seen with clear "roofs", allowing light below decks in addition to fresh air.

Dorade boxes: A dorade box is a very cool invention itself. Below the "trumpet" is a hole in the box, offset from the visible one in the deck, allowing ventilation below decks without letting rain & spray in. These are the first I've seen with clear "roofs", allowing light below decks in addition to fresh air.

Butterfly hatches: These beautiful contraptions are found on so many traditional boats. They also let light and air below decks, but I've never met one that doesn't leak. This is the most elegant and effective solution to butterfly hatch leaks I've ever seen. This looks to be a piece of 2" bronze pipe cut in half and set into the frame just below the hatch hinges.

Butterfly hatches: These beautiful contraptions are found on so many traditional boats. They also let air and light in below decks, but I've never met one that doesn't leak. The butterfly hatch on Clearwater doesn't leak! This is the most elegant and effective solution to butterfly hatch leaks I've ever seen. This looks to be a piece of 2" bronze pipe cut in half and set into the frame just below the hatch hinges.

Scrolling map: Switching between large-scale and small-scale charts is always a nuisance, but traveling up and down a river makes for a lot of chart changes.

Scrolling chart: Switching between large-scale and small-scale charts is always a nuisance, but travel along a river requires a particularly frequent change of charts.

Clearwater crew of years past constructed this scrolling chart by cutting and taping the necessary charts together to get them all the way from Albany to New York City without a chart swap.

Clearwater crew of years past solved the problem by cutting and taping the necessary charts together and binding the final product into this scrolling frame to allow them to get all the way from Albany to New York City without a chart swap.

 

Impermanent Chafe Gear: Chafing on lines, especially dock lines, is always a concern. On every boat I've been on, the issue was addressed with old fire hose cut into pieces and sometimes sewn around loosely, sometimes taped securely to the most chafed areas of line. Inevitably, chafe gear gets stuck in fair-leads or doesn't end up in the place it was meant to be.

Impermanent Chafe Gear: Chafing on lines, especially dock lines, is always a concern. On every boat I've been on, the issue was addressed with old fire hose cut into pieces and sometimes sewn, sometimes taped to the most chafed areas of line. Inevitably, chafe gear gets stuck in fair-leads or doesn't end up in the place it was meant to be.

On Clearwater, there is an additional challenge of a new dock with different chafe points every night. I think their solution is every bit as valuable on boats with a home port. They have a big bag of chafe gear that gets attached to chafe points after every sail. This ensures strong, happy dock lines with minimal wear every time.

On Clearwater, there is an additional challenge of a new dock with different chafe points every night. I think their solution is every bit as valuable on boats with a home port. They have a big bag of chafe gear that gets attached to chafe points after every sail. This ensures perfect placement of chafe gear every time, for happy, wear free dock lines.

Aug 152012
 
Sunset: The sloop Clearwater peaks out from behind the dock in Beacon, New York.

Sunset: The sloop Clearwater peaks out from behind the dock in Beacon, New York.

Hi everyone! I’m in Worcester right now for some days off, volunteering for Worcester World Cup, an FIFA-inspired community soccer tournament that one of my best friends spear-heads each year. I had a full first couple of weeks on Clearwater, and I’m enjoying some down time but I wanted to report back on life aboard “The Pete Seeger Boat”.

First of all, I have to say that this is a gorgeous boat with a remarkable and inspiring history. In the sixties, a bunch of people, many of them folk musicians, decided that they wanted to draw attention to the Hudson River, which at the time was heavily polluted by raw sewage and industrial waste, including large amounts of PCB’s, a known carcinogen. They raised a bunch of money, and commissioned the Sloop Clearwater as a symbol of the Hudson’s beauty, designed after the old Hudson River sloops that used to carry cargo down the river.

We caught a type of flat fish called a hog-choker on one of my first days, and kept him in our on-deck tank.

We caught a type of flat fish called a hog-choker on one of my first days, and kept him in our on-deck tank.

Since then, the Sloop Clearwater has been traveling up and down the Hudson, teaching children and youth of New York about the environment. Their mission is “to provide innovative environmental programs, advocacy, and celebrations designed to inspire, educate and activate the next generation of environmental leaders.” And they do.

Working as an educator on boats, over the years I’ve seen a lot of different approaches to teaching in this very unique environment. Each boat has its own set of values or topics of focus, but the universal challenge (perhaps with teaching in general) is deciding whether to touch the lives of a lot of kids a little, or the lives of a few kids a lot. It’s a tough choice and the two usually seem mutually exclusive, but Clearwater’s model does both.

One of my first projects: model boats for the girls in my watch for the Young Women at the Helm program. They spent a day designing and building their own rigs.

One of my first projects: model boats for the girls in my watch for the Young Women at the Helm program. They spent a day designing and building their own rigs.

The main work of Clearwater, as I was told over and over again during my interview, is teaching (not sailing!). We take 15 thousand school children onto the Hudson River each year for 3 hour daysails, during which we barrage them with a mountain of information, activities and local lore (so I’m told, I haven’t done this part yet). This is the mass education part. It seems like every kid in the Hudson River Valley has been on the Clearwater and can tell you the name of at  least one species of fish.

But what happens to those kids as they get older? What happens when they age out of Clearwater field-trips? This is where the model becomes special. In the summertime, Clearwater hosts two grant-funded, multi-day programs for 15-18 year olds: Young Women at the Helm, and Young Men at the Helm. These programs are the beginning of a pipeline that ushers the most interested and promising youth of the Hudson River Valley from participant to volunteer, to intern, to crew member, and maybe even one day to captain. The current captain, first mate, second mate and two apprentices all got their start as either participants or volunteers.

One of Clearwater's many clever conservation utilities: a barrel full of water not quite fresh enough to drink, but used for other non-potable necessities.

One of Clearwater's many clever conservation utilities: a barrel full of water not quite fresh enough to drink, but used for other non-potable necessities.

Before I lost my marbles and ran away to the sea, I worked as a program coordinator at several small, youth-serving non-profits in Worcester, MA. I’ve seen a lot of really fantastic youth development programs, many much more radical or visible than the one that Clearwater runs. But I’ve never seen one that as successfully meets the needs as broadly and deeply of so many youth as this one. The Clearwater Organization is undoubtedly “inspiring, educating and activating the next generation of environmental leaders.”

When I finally come to my senses and return to the real world, I will be bringing the gospel of this model with me wherever I go. Although it may not be such a sure fire approach without the help of a majestic old boat to capture the imagination.

A view from below...that is one huge mast!

A view from below...that is one huge mast!

Hudson River Sloops are known for their "Hudson River Gybe", a special, loud and sometimes scary gybe that involves the boom swinging across without sheeting in at all.

Hudson River Sloops are known for their "Hudson River Gybe", a special, loud and sometimes scary gybe that involves the boom swinging across without sheeting in at all.

The brine barrel: Normally wooden boats get a deck wash with salt water from the ocean to help preserve the wood. Since Clearwater is in mostly brackish water, we put it in a barrel and salt it instead.

The brine barrel: Normally wooden boats get a deck wash with salt water from the ocean to help preserve the wood. Since Clearwater is in mostly brackish water, we put it in a barrel and salt it instead.

Brine barrel rubber ducky.

Brine barrel rubber ducky.