Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
GOOD FOR: Ages 9-12

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:West 79th Street, Manhattan, NY
Hours:Three-hour afternoon and evening sails; open seasonally, dates and times vary
Fee: Adults, $50; Clearwater members, $35; children ages 12 and under, $15
Contact:; 845-265-8080

Bathrooms: On board
Water/Snacks: Food and beverages allowed on board, but not available for purchase

This terrific family adventure blends history and environmental awareness aboard a stunning replica of an eighteenth-century sloop.

Kids learn sea chanteys and the art of sailing aboard the sloop Clearwater.
Photo by: Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert

To step aboard the Hudson River sloop Clearwater is to step into the eighteenth century, when hundreds of similar vessels carried anglers, passengers, and cargo up and down the Hudson. Harking back to that era—a time when rivers were revered—the singer-songwriter Pete Seeger and other Hudson Valley residents built Clearwater with the purpose of raising awareness about the nation’s threatened waterways. Launched in 1969, the sloop has been sailing to towns and cities along the Hudson, New York Harbor, and the Long Island Sound ever since.

A three-hour cruise begins with a lesson on safety: the importance of keeping the boat’s weight balanced, where to stand—and not stand—when the boom is in motion, and reacting quickly to the captain’s calls.

Once offshore, the crew invites children amidships to learn boat architecture and terminology, the history of such vessels, and the need to protect the Hudson and all waterways. To that end, environmentalists once made a historic sail of Clearwater to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972.

When it’s time to raise the sail, everyone is invited to take a place along the thick rope to pull hand over hand, chanting “heave-ho,” to make the heavy cloth climb the mast. Children are also brought to the tiller to help crew members steer the boat, and are taught how to throw a vintage-style fishing net overboard. This comes with an important discussion on the restoration and preservation of fish populations.

Once the hard work is done, crew members settle down with the children to sing age-old sea shanties and modern ballads. It is also a Clearwater tradition to observe a moment of silence to hear the sounds of the water as Henry Hudson himself may have heard them, except, perhaps, for the chop of a helicopter.

Remember: Clearwater is propelled by the wind and tides. As such, it is best to prepare children for the possibility that the boat may not reach the George Washington Bridge, the southern tip of Manhattan, or any other destination they may hope to go to.

Plan B:

To walk off your sea legs, take a stroll through nearby Riverside Park (Trip 19) or along the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway (Trip 7).


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