Hudson River Sloops
By the early 19th Century, the Hudson was plied by sailing vessels uniquely suited to the river’s conditions. Tall rigged sloops with shallow draft hulls and centerboard fitted keels were able to navigate the well up and down the river. Characteristic gaff-rigged main sails were often supplemented with a topsail, to capture wind energy even in a light breeze. A few carried passengers, but most ferried cargo - furs, flour, lumber, quarried stone, farm produce, and even livestock up and down the Hudson River Valley.
In the 1960’s, concern for the environment gave birth to the Clearwater organization. It was though that a good way to educate folks about the river, was to get people on the water. Instigated by Pete Seeger, the sloop “Clearwater” was built as a replica of the Hudson River sloops of yesteryear. Over 100 feet in length and able to carry over 50 people, she sailed on the Hudson promoting clean water and protection of the river’s natural habitat. But there were some towns she couldn't visit, like Nyack and Dobbs Ferry, because their waters were too shallow for her to come in and dock.
In 1978, Pete had a smaller boat built of wood, named it the “Woody Guthrie”, and sailed it with the Beacon Sloop Club. Experience was teaching that wood boats require much upkeep. So Pete started a second smaller boat built like a sort of eggshell hull of cement and wire. Cement was cheap and durable. Finishing of the cockpit, topsides and rigging was a community project. Starting near Kingston and moving from Yonkers to Hastings, the boat was hand crafted by volunteers. "Sojourner Truth" became the third Hudson River Sloop.
Sojourner Truth for Cleaner Water
In 1982, Ferry Sloops, Inc. was organized to sail a 42' gaff-rigged topsail sloop named "Sojourner Truth" on her environmental mission. For twenty years, volunteers served aboard Sojourner, providing free sails at riverside festivals. Taking ten people per hour, these "guest sails" have introduced hundreds of people to the river each year. With a brief introduction to the Hudson's ecology, people were encouraged to become "advocates for the river."
Sojourner Hits the Rocks
On September 11, 2002, high winds and surging waves tore the “Sojourner Truth” from its Hudson River mooring, sending it onto the rocks at Half Moon Bay. The craft was so badly damaged that it was beyond our means to salvage.
Getting Back on the Water
In 2003, Randy King generously offered Ferry Sloops the use of a 22’ Ensign, which was sailed out of King Marine and Senasqua from 2003 to 2005.
In October 2005, “Whimbrel”, a 22’ sloop-rigged Marshall Catboat was purchased.
Ferry Sloops’ mission continues today by inspiring people to appreciate and protect the Hudson River through free group sails and teaching the history of the river and its environment.