Recalling a time when the Hudson River needed a lot of help, reflecting on how conditions in the river have improved, and remembering there’s still much to be done to protect our seminal waterway, the Sloop Clearwater marked the 50th anniversary of its May 17, 1969 launching last Friday in Beacon.
Conceived by folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, designed by Cy Hamlin and built in Maine, the Clearwater, modeled after the Dutch cargo boats which plied the Hudson before the age of steam, instantly became a symbol and rallying point for efforts to clean up the river. The not-for-profit group which manages the boat, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, is one of the nation’s leading advocates for clean waterways.
At the rededication ceremony, as the assembled sang “Clearwater’s on the River,” participants mixed brackish salt water from the lower Hudson and fresh water from the upper Hudson, and Pete and Toshi Seeger’s young great-grandson Raiden DeGeare poured it over the deck.
“In the 1960s the space for leadership was dominated by Vietnam, civil rights and battles in our country, and pollution in what might have then been called the Hudson Sewer,” said Hal Cohen, one of Clearwater’s original co-founders. “Up came Pete and Toshi and exerted new leadership. They led us through the Hudson River cleanup , Indian Point battles, and so much else. Now we have new challenges — 7.5 billion people, bomb trains, a warmer climate, melting poles and rising seas. That wasn’t on the menu in the 1960s. But in ‘leadership’ there is a ‘ship.’ Happy birthday, Clearwater, and may she lead us through today’s challenges to a new era.”