This month the Hudson River Maritime Museum recognized longtime volunteer Mike Sadowy, 89. Sadowy is a member of the team at the museum’s Wooden Boat School, as well as a founding member of the site when it began offering classes in 2015. He was also an integral part of launching the museum’s traditional rowing classes, offering people an opportunity to experience this sport, which plays an important part in the history of our region’s working waterfronts.
On Thursday, June 3, staff and fellow volunteers celebrated with Sadowy during a potluck lunch at the Wooden Boat School. Many volunteers had not seen each other in over a year due to COVID. After lunch, Sadowy and the team were able to relaunch the John Magnus into the Rondout Creek for an afternoon row. At the volunteer party, Sadowy recounted the story of building the John Magnus in the early 1990s. The project came to life thanks to New York City-based not-for-profit Floating the Apple, which promotes open-water rowing and racing throughout the Northeast. The Whitehall boat style is known for balance and speed, its design being perfected since its origins in 1600s England.
The boat was constructed within a storefront in Times Square. After removing a window in order to extricate the newly built vessel from the building, the team paraded the boat down 42nd Street to celebrate its completion and draw attention to the art of traditional boatbuilding. In the 1990s, Sadowy was a member of the Magnus crew who sailed and rowed the boat upriver from New York City to Albany. The boat has lived at the museum for a number of years, and received a fresh coat of paint by volunteers during a fleet-maintenance session in April.
Sadowy was part of the launch of the museum’s YouthBoat program, which connects youth students with skilled shipwrights and craftspeople to learn the traditional boatbuilding process. YouthBoat offers a daytime program for Ulster BOCES students, as well as afterschool sessions for students at Hudson Valley high schools. Participants put STEM skills to work as they follow vessel-building plans and familiarize themselves with industry tools and materials. Once a boat is completed, students move their vessel to the Rondout Creek for a row. Observers have found the program to be a model for experiential learning.
In the past year, Sadowy has turned his attention to cataloguing the school’s library, which offers a wealth of knowledge that few have seen. The collection can be found online at www.librarything.com/catalog/rwbs. Sadowy’s dedication to the project helps readers reach hundreds of hard-to-find and out-of-print publications on a wide range of maritime and boatbuilding topics, including boat construction, toolmaking and canvas-working.
The museum is located along the historic Rondout waterfront in downtown Kingston. Visit www.hrmm.org for more information.