"A Brief Ferry Sloops History"
by Lenny Lipton
Back in the 60’s when the Hudson River was very polluted and dirty, there were people like Pete Seeger who looked on the river with sadness. They knew the potential beauty of the Hudson River Valley and longed for it to be returned to a clean state of being so that people could enjoy swimming, boating, and gazing upon it.
Pete had read a book by two old Hudson River sloop captains, Collier and Verplanck, and he had an inspiration - if he could have a replica sloop built and sailed it on the river then it might move people to help clean the river up.
After much hard work fundraising, the Clearwater was built at Harvey Gamage’s yard in Maine. Clearwater sailed up and down the Hudson, attracting attention and helping to spread the word of the environmental movement.
The Clearwater proved so popular and successful at focusing attention on the state of the river that Pete and others decided that local sloop clubs, which would operate out of one fixed location, would be a valuable addition to the movement.
The hull of what later became the Sojourner Truth was built professionally in Maryland and shipped up to Yonkers to be completed by the new group Ferry Sloops. It was indeed finished and sailed, but it took 5 years! After that, no one else really wanted to build a boat, so other sloop clubs took the form of "Friends of Clearwater" types of groups and Ferry Sloops was left to itself to pursue its own course, and it developed into an all volunteer mini-Clearwater type of group, much like the Beacon Sloop Club which had preceded it.
Since then, Sojourner Truth had migrated upriver to Croton, where it hosted sail classes from Senasqua Park, with the cooperation of the town of Croton. It was wintering at Randy King’s marina in Verplank. It was still operated by a ragtag group of volunteers, some of whom had been with the boat for over 20 years until that fateful day of September 11, 2002, when high winds and surging waves tore the Sojourner Truth from its mooring, pulling it downstream and sending it onto the rocks at Half Moon Bay.
Randy King then generously offered Ferry Sloops the use of a 22’ Ensign, which we have been sailing out of King Marine and Senasqua from 2003 to 2005. We recently purchased a 22 foot Sloop-Rigged Catboat the Whimbrel with which we have been taking groups for free sails at Riverfront Festivals and Riverside Communities since the 2006 season.
Ferry Sloops has been around now over 30 years and is still committed to getting people out on the lovely Hudson River and continuing to educate people on the environmental issues of our area.