Clearwater’s Open Boat Day potluck in Kingston on Friday

Clearwater‘s maiden voyage (photo courtesy of the A Wallace Collection)

Clearwater‘s maiden voyage (photo courtesy of the A Wallace Collection)

The 106-foot-long sloop Clearwater has been raising people’s consciousness about the importance of preserving the Hudson River since 1969. A replica of the majestic sailing vessels that once traveled up and down the river in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Clearwater is a link to the past and a reminder about the future, enhancing environmental education in our region and serving as a symbol of grassroots action through hands-on learning programs and celebrations. Winter Open Boat Days on the Clearwater are an annual event, when the public is invited in during the wintertime to enjoy each other’s company over a potluck supper, listen to live acoustic music and check out the work being done to the vessel to prepare it for the upcoming sailing season.

The longtime tradition is flourishing at the Clearwater’s new home on the Kingston waterfront, says event coordinator Linda Richards. The biggest crowd yet turned up for the January Open Boat Day last month, she says: the first to be held at the recently built Kingston Home Port and Education Center, the Clearwater’s new digs at the Hudson River Maritime Museum on the Rondout.

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The next Winter Open Boat Day will be held on Friday, February 22 from 4 to 8 p.m. Each of the three Winter Open Boat Days (the last will take place on March 16) has a different musical theme, with the February event to feature an open jam, with all visitors welcome to bring their acoustic instruments and join in. There have been a lot of inquiries about the jam already, says Richards, so they’re anticipating that it’ll be a pretty spirited event.

There will also be performances by Spirit of Thunderheart, a group of Native American women drummers of various nations from throughout the region. The event just makes you feel good, says Richards – not the least because for one day, people are connecting with each other instead of with their cell phones or iPods.

Everyone is asked to bring a potluck dish that will feed six people. They’ll have some slow cookers available to warm things up, says Richards, if anyone wants to bring a main-course dish; and the new building is heated, so no matter what the temperature is that day, it’ll be warm inside. The event is free to attend, although donations to keep the Clearwater afloat are always welcome.

The Clearwater will be up on a barge during the Winter Open Boat Day, in the process of receiving repairs and restoration. Major work being done this winter includes the replacement of the back third of the vessel and items below the waterline, including the shaft log and the horn timber: all key components to the sloop’s operation. The repair of more than 30 frames and about 50 planks will also be done, as well as the whole transom, which includes installation of the original covering board across the stern of the deck. When this phase is completed, almost all major structural work in Clearwater’s current five-year-plan with the US Coast Guard will be completed.

Open Boat Day Potluck, Friday, February 22, 4-8 p.m., free, Kingston Home Port and Education Center, Hudson River Maritime Museum, 50 Rondout Landing, Kingston; (845) 265-8080, www.clearwater.org.

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