By Amanda Hawkins, HRMM PR & Marketing Coordinator

One of the most lively areas in the mid-Hudson is the charming Rondout waterfront in Kingston, NY. Sitting next to the water at one of the many restaurants, watching boats go by, and catching up with the newest exhibits at the Hudson River Maritime Museum (HRMM) are some activities this area has to offer. The museum has recently grown to a three-building campus that includes the Clearwater Barn, the Wooden Boat Building School, the Rowing School, the Sailing School, and the Kingston Sailing Club with classes and activities for all ages and abilities.

HRMM is proud to partner with Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. As many people know, Pete Seeger and friends launched the famous boat and the environmental movement in the United States in 1969 on the Hudson River. Though Pete has left us, his legacy of maritime environmentalism lives on in the Sloop Clearwater. In 2012, the Clearwater organization built the barn on the museum grounds that now serves as the boat’s winter headquarters and which hosts shared programming with HRMM.

When the former Rosita’s Mexican restaurant was up for sale in 2015, the museum acquired the building and created The Wooden Boat School. Thanks to grants and generous donors, this became the third building on the museum campus. The Wooden Boat School’s mission is to preserve the maritime craft traditions of the Hudson Valley and teach the living history of the Hudson River through hands-on classes and workshops. The school runs adult classes through all seasons and offers a diverse curriculum with opportunities that inspire skills in woodworking, boat building, and maritime crafts.



The Wooden Boat School offers instruction, restoration, and new construction of traditional watercraft. ©


The Wooden Boat School also hosts the Youthboat program for teen girls and boys. Thanks to grants, donations, and many volunteers, Youthboat is free to participants. Through Youthboat, students participate in local, authentic STEM learning projects that allow them to connect more meaningfully with the content they study in school. Creating a paddle from scratch and working with others as a team to build a boat that floats and can be rowed or sailed helps students view their learning in a different way. Classes are hands-on and exciting, and students see immediate results. Students also get an opportunity to get out on the water and learn basic rowing skills.

In addition to classes, the Wooden Boat School not only offers restoration services for traditional wooden boats, but also entertains new build plans in traditional boat styles. The Wooden Boat School can house six to seven boats indoors and will work with other sizes, as long as they fit the docks. Hudson River Sloop Clearwater has been one of HRMM’s clients for many years, and maintaining the Clearwater relies on the extensive boat carpentry experience at the Wooden Boat School. For questions, please contact John Phelan, Wooden School Coordinator, at or 845-514-2951.

HRMM, in partnership with the Rondout Rowing Club, founded the Rowing School in 2017. The school features youth and adult rowing classes and inspires a new generation of rowing enthusiasts while preserving the tradition of rowing on the Hudson. Students learn rigging and boat maintenance and can hone essential skills for competitive rowing while enjoying beautiful summer days on the water. These programs foster responsibility, positive learning, teamwork, initiative, and a caring attitude that crew members will be able to use in and out of these programs.

Nelsie Aybar-Grau, an instructor at the Rowing School, lives steps away from Rondout Creek and is a spokesperson for the benefits of rowing. “Rowing has changed my life,” she enthuses. “It brought me closer to nature and the meditative rejuvenation that it provides.” Nelsie had no rowing experience before a friend asked her to photograph Rondout Creek and Rondout Rowing Club members several years ago. That experience led to a passionate pursuit of this form of exercise and adventure.

Nelsie began rowing at age 60, and has since since become a certified coach, instructor, and president of the rowing club from 2014 to ‘17. Leading the Wooden Boat School Youthboat participants on rowing excursions on the Rondout Creek in the museum’s historic Whitehall, the John Magnus, is one of the many ways Nelsie gives back to the community. On her own time, she gives private sculling instruction on single sliding seat training boats and provides guided tours of Rondout Creek and the Hudson River. The North American History of rowing is also among Nelsie’s interests, and she will share a presentation on “A Brief History of Rowing & Regattas” on Wednesday, April 29 at 7 PM at the Town of Esopus Library, 128 Canal Street, Port Ewen, NY. You can learn more about Nelsie on her Facebook page, The Rondout Rower, or her website,

The Sailing School at HRMM was also created in 2017, in partnership with the Kingston Sailing Club. Instructors are highly experienced adult sailors and teachers who are certified by US Sailing or the American Sailing Association. The school features youth and adult sailing classes and periodically hosts US Sailing Instructor training classes. Our fourth season includes First Sail, a two-hour introduction to sailing aboard our historic Catboat Tidbit, many adult sailing classes and four weeks of Youth Sailing Program.


The Sailing School at HRMM offers a variety of adult and youth programs. ©


Adult instruction includes the Centerboard Sailing Class, a 7-hour class offered on four different Saturdays, for those who want to get close to the water and learn sailing the best way – on small, centerboard boats. The school offers three 21-hour US Sailing courses: Basic Keelboat, Basic Keelboat II: Spinnaker, and Basic Keelboat II: Skipper. Students may also sign up for custom sailing lessons. Registration for 2020 is open and can be found at

The Youth Sailing Program comprises four exciting week-long sessions, with students ages 9 to 17 learn the basics on 8-foot Optimists and other sailboats. Students may register for any of the four weeks. The focus is on safety, followed closely by lots of fun and learning. Each day, certified instructors present “chalk talks,” and brief learning activities on land and give lots of on-the water instruction with games, drills, and informal races on the Rondout Creek and the Hudson River. The goal at the end of each week is for all students to feel comfortable on the water and to become capable, safe basic sailors. Because each week will consist of mixed ages and experience levels, instructors adapt the program to the needs of the students. This year, thanks to the generosity of several donors, we have a number of scholarships available. For information and to register, please go to

Former Kingston Sailing Club Board Member Deb Medenbach and Sailing School Director Jody Sterling acknowledge that sexism still exists in the sailing world. In order to improve women’s knowledge, access to sailing, and empowerment in sailing, Deb set out to create the first local Women’s Sailing Conference at HRMM in 2017, with Jody’s assistance. Soon after that successful event, the Kingston Sailing Club’s Women on the Water (WOW) sailing experience was born. Each spring, on six Wednesday evenings, and each fall on four Saturday afternoons, women volunteer skippers take out female participants, some of whom are beginners wishing to try the sport, others who have a little experience and want to learn more in a woman-run environment, and others who wish to step up and take leadership roles on boats with the support of knowledgeable women captains. With the help of the Kingston Sailing Club, volunteers, supporters, and the HRMM, these women-led sailing experiences and the annual Women’s Sailing Conference have now become a tradition on the Rondout waterfront.

The fourth annual Riverport Women’s Sailing Conference was held March 28. Twelve hands-on workshops, taught by skilled women mariners for women participants, included Electrical Systems, Line Management, Outboard Engine Troubleshooting, Sail Care and Repair, Communications at Sea, Blue Water Sailing, Safety Around Large Vessels, Maritime Careers, Race Management, Buying Your First Boat, Racing Rules of Sailing, and Coastal Navigation. Our Keynote speaker was Dawn Riley, Executive Director of Oakcliff Sailing in Oyster Bay, NY and highly experienced America’s Cup and Whitbread Round the World Race sailor. Information about next year’s conference will be available at

Following this year’s conference was a special screening of the amazing documentary Maiden, the story of Tracy Edwards and her all-female crew, including Dawn Riley, who were the first women to successfully compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989-‘90. The focus is on Tracy, the young British captain who fought sexism within the elite yachting world and raced towards equality. While men of the media laughed and called Maiden “a tin full of tarts” and competitors looked down on the vessel’s ability to compete, she and her crew proved them wrong when they finished second place overall.

Thirty years later, Tracy refurbished the boat and created the Maiden Factor Foundation, an organization dedicated to education and empowerment for girls and all under-represented minorities. The boat is currently sailing around the world to promote its mission.

Last year, HRMM Trustee Dale Wolfield reached out to Tracy to see if it would be possible to bring Maiden to Kingston as part of her world tour. A shared mission of female empowerment created a receptive atmosphere as both sailors discussed details about the trip, resulting in Tracy and her staff’s decision to steer Maiden up the Hudson River. She is scheduled to arrive on Sunday, April 19, 2020!

Maiden will be at the HRMM dock for two days. On Monday and Tuesday, April 20 and 21, the Maiden crew will give boat tours and educational programs, providing opportunities for school groups and the public to meet the crew, be inspired by its story, and learn about Maiden’s current mission. Boat owners interested in joining the flotilla escorting Maiden up the Hudson on April 19 or heading south on April 23, are encouraged to participate. Information about the flotilla, deck tours, and other activities during Maiden’s visit is available at

The Kingston Sailing Club (KSC) has enjoyed racing, day sailing and cruising on the Hudson River for many years. KSC members volunteer frequently at HRMM events. Now a partner with the Hudson River Maritime Museum, KSC hosts its skippers meetings, regattas, meetings, and parties at the HRMM. KSC organizes a spring series of Sunday races; the Maritime Cup regatta, a Hudson River Yacht Racing Association Regatta; Women on the Water sailing experiences in the spring and fall; daysailing; cruising; the Spinnenweber Regatta; and a fall series of Sunday races. KSC welcomes all people who would like to join us. For more information, please visit ■

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