The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. is a non-profit organization based in Beacon, New York that seeks to protect the Hudson River and surrounding wetlands and waterways through advocacy and public education. Founded by folk singer Pete Seeger with his wife Toshi Seeger in 1966, the organization is known for its sailing vessel, the sloop Clearwater, and for its annual music and environmental festival, the Great Hudson River Revival.
In 1969, the Clearwater made her maiden voyage down the Atlantic Coast from the Harvey Gamage Shipyard in Maine to the South Street Seaport in New York City. Folk musician Tom Winslow wrote a folk music song, "Hey Looka Yonder (It's the Clearwater)", in which the lyrics specifically mention the fundraising efforts for the sloop, and how "black and white" people got together for this program.
Based for many years in Poughkeepsie, New York, the Clearwater moved its office to Beacon, New York in 2009.
The Clearwater and the Clearwater Festival have worked to draw attention to the problem of pollution of the Hudson River. Pollution in the river has included mercury contamination and sewage dumping, but the most discussed issue has been General Electric's contamination of the river with Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) between 1947 and 1977. This pollution caused a range of harmful effects to wildlife and people who eat fish from the river or drink the water. The activism of Seeger and the Clearwater led to the area being designated as one of the superfund sites.
Clearwater has gained national recognition for its activism starting in the 1970s to force a clean-up of the PCB contamination caused by industrial manufacturing by General Electric and other companies on the river's edge. Other specific Hudson watershed issues with which Clearwater is concerned are development pressures in the southern half of the Hudson Valley, pesticide runoff, the Manhattan west side waterfront, Indian Point nuclear reactors, and New York/New Jersey Harbor dredge spoil disposal. Clearwater played a key role in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to compel one of the Hudson River’s biggest polluters to begin removing toxic PCBs from the water and restoring one of the most polluted portions of the river.
In 2002, Pete Seeger was named a "Clean Water Hero" for his prominent efforts in the passage of the Clean Water Act. His tireless devotion to working through Clearwater and promoting its message to effectively use the law in prosecuting polluters of America’s waterways has made the Clean Water Act one of the most successful environmental laws in the country.
The EPA said after Seeger's death in 2014 that "the incredible work" of Seeger and the Clearwater organization helped make the Hudson River cleaner. "His leadership was extraordinary," regional Administrator Judith A. Enck told United Press International.
Clearwater's environmental education programs are intended to heighten public awareness of the Hudson River's unique ecosystem that blends freshwater streams from the Adirondack Mountains with the salt tides of the Atlantic Ocean around New York City.
For the early part of each sailing season Clearwater regularly charters the schooner Mystic Whaler, a privately owned passenger schooner, to present Clearwater's education program to more schools. Mystic Whaler is a traditionally rigged 110-foot (34 m) schooner, built in 1967 as a tribute to the coastal trading schooners that plied New England's waters over a century ago.
Sailing mostly on the Hudson River between New York City and Albany, New York, these vessels are used primarily to offer environmental and biological education programs to school groups, touching on river biology, environmental protection of waterways and related topics. Both vessels also offer sails for Clearwater members and the general public, as well as private charters.
In addition to the professional crew, Clearwater offers opportunities for people to sail as volunteer crew for one week periods or as an intern/apprentice for up to two months to learn sailing, environmental education and assist with vessel maintenance.
One of the organization's biggest fundraisers is its annual music and environmental festival, the Clearwater Festival. Officially known as the "Great Hudson River Revival," it is America’s oldest and largest annual festival of its kind. The weekend-long festival has been held each June for over three decades, with attendances of up to 15,000 people. The festival raises funds and consciousness on the plight of the river and the earth. All proceeds go directly to support Clearwater’s environmental research, education and advocacy to help preserve and protect the Hudson River and its tributaries, as well as communities in the river valley. Music ranges from Blues to Rock, Reggae to Salsa, Bluegrass to Jazz, and Funk to Folk.
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. owns and operates the sloop Clearwater, the centerpiece of Clearwater’s public education programs. Clearwater serves as a movable classroom, laboratory, stage, and forum.
The Clearwater is a 106-foot (32 m) wooden sailing vessel designed after 18th and 19th century Dutch sailing sloops. With a large gaff rig, a hinged centerboard, and wide shallow hull, these vessels evolved to deal with the challenges of strong tides, shallow waters, and variable winds encountered on the Hudson River. Designed by Cy Hamlin and built by The Harvey Gamage Shipyard in South Bristol, Maine, Clearwater was launched in 1969. Built of traditional plank-on-frame wooden construction, the sloop is 75 feet (23 m) in length on deck, 25 feet (7.6 m) in beam and can hold up to 70 tons of cargo. The sloop rig consists of a single mast and topmast which together rise to a height of 108 feet (33 m). A 65-foot (20 m) long main boom and 45-foot (14 m) gaff carry a 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) mainsail. A 28-foot (8.5 m) long bowsprit carries a 900-square-foot (84 m2) jib on the foredeck. In light wind, a 450-square-foot (42 m2) topsail may also be raised.
In 2004, the sloop Clearwater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for her significance to the environmental movement. The Clearwater has a smaller sister ship, the Sloop Woody Guthrie, that is used in education about the river.
In 2012, Pete Seeger and Lorre Wyatt released the music video and single "God's Counting on Me, God's Counting on You", which they recorded and filmed on the "Clearwater" while sailing on the Hudson in 2010. The song references the Gulf oil spill of 2010.