Observing a moment of silence on the Hudson River, Rensselaer County Girl Scouts took the time to appreciate the beauty around them: serene, sparkling waters, the warmth of the sun, and the sound of gentle waves lapping the sailboat.
They were fortunate to have glorious weather and clear waters, on a river that has been plagued by pollution. The remarkably clear waters of the Hudson River; however, weren’t brought about by Lady Luck. No, we benefited from the efforts of environmental groups such as the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater who’ve inspired the cleanup programs that resulted from a raised awareness and appreciation of this treasure.
Challenges For The Future Educational Sail
The Girl Scouts were celebrating Earth Day a little early with an educational sail aboard the Clearwater Sloop. Led by a group of volunteers who shared their passion for “a cleaner, safer world for ourselves and future generations,” they learned about the “challenges facing the Hudson River today and what can be done to preserve this amazing natural resource.”
Our first activity called for using a net to haul fish and other life creatures that we were to identify using dichotomous keys. Ironically, or perhaps indicative of the river’s health, we didn’t catch anything at all.
After an introduction to sea chanteys, in which we discovered that crews often sing to establish a rhythm for a group job, our 50 Girl Scouts and adult volunteers were divided into two teams tasked with raising the 3,000 lb mainsail. This was truly a team effort, and was a visual demonstration of what can be accomplished when we connect and cooperate.
A major part of the Clearwater educational program has participants sorted into smaller groups who rotate between various learning stations. Ours were chosen to reflect the environmental issues and the activist mission of the Challenges For The Futuretheme.
Water Testing Station
The girls conducted a few simple chemistry tests to determine the overall health of the river. They found out that both the oxygen and pH levels of the water were such that they could support aquatic life.
Knot Tying Station
One of the professional sailors had the girls start out with a game where they were asked to clasp hands in a human knot, and then to untie that knot. That demonstration convinced the girls of the value of tying strong knots that can be easily undone, but it also underscored the importance of cooperation. Afterwards, they were shown how to make a few important knots, and where and when these would be useful.
Passing the galley down below decks into the main cabin, the girls sat around the dining table to learn about the history of the Hudson River. Our instructor made good use of a canvas timeline that showed important events in several areas of interest: the Arts, Science and Technology, Government and Economy, Ecosystems, Hudson Valley Milestones, and Global Context.
It was interesting to discover when various invasive species had been introduced such as the arrival of Purple Loosestrife plant in the early 1800s.
A sailing trip on the Clearwater is not complete without a little banjo music. Pete Seeger, the American singer credited with the revival of folk music, raised the first few dollars for the construction of the sloop, so it’s a treasured part of the Clearwater experience.
Every girl had a turn at the helm where they experienced what it’s like to affect the course of the 106 foot wooden vessel as they controlled the tiller. They also poured over nautical charts, discovering how to decipher the symbols for maritime features such as submerged wrecks or rocks.
Caring for Our Earth
The Clearwater Challenges For The Future Program was a wonderful way to inspire an appreciation for the Hudson River. Hopefully, many of these girls will want to go on to find ways to preserve this and other natural resources.
More photos and the original article can be found at Earth Day Brings Sunny Days and Clear Waters.
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
724 Wolcott Ave.
Beacon, NY 12508
(845) 265 8080
Click the link to join a scheduled sailing program, or book your own group program. Adventure-based leadership summer camp programs for teens based in Beacon, NY are now open for registration.