If you want friends, own a boat. The Beacon Sloop Club has plenty, especially since it offers free evening sails on the sloop Woody Guthrie from June through mid-October.

Bobbing along the Hudson River is a relaxing experience for passengers only because a small army of volunteer crew members navigate the decks like mountain goats as the vessel shifts with the winds. They ensure that the ride is smooth and safe.

Pete Seeger commissioned the vessel in 1978 as a smaller replica of the sloop Clearwater, the type of ship that carried cargo up and down the river long before highways laced the countryside.

Remaining true to Seeger’s vision of using the sloop to educate people about the Hudson River, no hat is passed. The captain invites people to join the club, but if the annual dues of $25 is burdensome, the organization is happy to take whatever anyone can give.

Many sailing terms have become part of everyday conversation, like “learning the ropes” and “three sheets to the wind,” but aboard the Woody Guthrie, the crew communicates in what sounds like a foreign language: Landlubbers won’t understand the phrases “slack the port topping” and “sweat the halyard up real loose.”

On a recent journey, the captain cut the motor, the crew hoisted the rust-colored sails and everyone tried to appreciate a moment of silence.

Despite the intermittent noise generated by airplanes, the ferry, jet skis, train whistles, honking automobiles and someone talking into a loud PA system at a nightclub along the Newburgh waterfront, it is possible to find pockets of peacefulness as the Hudson reflects the darkening sky and resembles a sheet of rippling steel.

Photos by Ross Corsair

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Marc Ferris is a freelance journalist based in Croton-on-Hudson.