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important dates: september 15 - fall semester begins  |  september 27 - rocking manhattan  |  december 12 - end of semester celebration

spring 2014 newsletter

rocking the duck boat

The love affair between Rocking the Boat and the Barnegat Bay region of New Jersey started in Spring, 2005, when Executive Director Adam Green (at that time also the Boatbuilding Program Director) decided to build a Melonseed Skiff with the boatbuilding students. It turned out that this beautiful 16-foot catboat was a traditional Jersey Shore duck hunting boat, perfect for sailing in the shallow salt marshes of Barnegat Bay, or for that matter, the mouth of the Bronx River. The particular design of the boat that Adam chose was drawn by John Brady, the chief boatbuilder at Philadelphia's Independence Seaport Museum, and now the institution's CEO. John's enthusiasm about Rocking the Boat's work spread and within a couple of years, a core of generous supporters from towns such as Mantoloking, Bayhead, Manasquan, Toms River, and Brielle had galvanized to support the organization. The names of these towns may be familiar, as they were among the hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012, suffering some of the greatest devastation on the Jersey Shore. In Mantoloking, for example, 200 out of 528 homes were washed out to sea or later demolished.

From the moment the extent of the storm's damage was known, Rocking the Boat has been looking for opportunities to help the Barnegat Bay community and in some measure repay them for all of their support. Last spring, Rocking the Boat Board member and Barnegat Bay community leader Peter Wright invited a group of Program Assistants to participate in a local clean up at Beaton's Boat Yard in Brick. Advisory Board member Michael Robinson drove them down and under the tutelage of Jay Darling, they all learned how to use a backhoe to help move huge piles of debris that had swirled through the fully submerged yard. Another opportunity to help came about this spring: Fowl Play, a 12-foot Duck Boat built and sailed by James Green, the son of longtime supporters Peter and D'Arcy Green, was among the casualties of Sandy. The garage where the boat had been stored disappeared after the storm and it was assumed that the boat was gone with it; but she was later found buried in sand and badly broken. Since her discovery, she has been sitting in a pile of similarly damaged boats at Beaton's. In early April, the boat was dug out of that pile and brought up to the Bronx and this spring Boatbuilding Job Skills Apprentices are restoring it.

Duck Boats are a regional design that symbolize the Barnegat Bay community's incredible heart. Once ubiquitous as hunting boats and later as youth training boats, they went out of fashion when fiberglass took over the market. But over the past two decades, in great part due to the initiative and incentive of Peter Kellogg, who has pledged to contribute $5,000 to the charity of choice of anyone who restores a defunct boat, many have been pulled out of storage sheds and brought back to life. In fact, over 100 Duck Boats now race throughout the sailing season on Barnegat Bay and at the end of every summer they all gather at the Mantoloking Yacht Club for the World Duck Championship Regatta where they are judged for their upkeep and raced against each other.

Rocking the Boat is thrilled for the chance to support the Barnegat Bay community, and Boatbuilding Apprentices are excited to take on the challenge of the restoration of Fowl Play. They will relaunch her on the Bronx River at the End-of-Semester Celebration on Saturday, June 7, and will then spend the summer learning to sail her so that they will be able to enter her into the 2014 World Ducks on Friday, August 22. There, the night before the races, Fowl Play will be presented in front of a panel of experts and the Apprentices hope she will be judged in "bristol fashion," or first class condition. And then, the following day, she will again hit the waters of Barnegat Bay, back where she belongs, only this time, with a kid from the Bronx at the helm.

grandma toshi and grandpa pete

Pete and Toshi Seeger were close friends, advisers, critics, inspirations, not to mention donors of many board feet of white oak from the very first days of Rocking the Boat. There is no way this place would be what it is without them. Rocking the Boat is proud to have been able to introduce Pete and Toshi Seeger to many classes of South Bronx kids who knew them as Grandpa and Grandma. Toshi died last summer at age 91 and Pete died this winter at age 94. They are deeply missed, but will remain with us in everything we do every day at Rocking the Boat. The following list chronicles the Seegers' nearly 20-year involvement with Rocking the Boat:

spring 1996 Adam introduced himself to Pete at a concert he performed at Vassar College and Pete invited him to help organize a Harlem River environmental festival at Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx

fall 1996 The first "Rocking the Boat" program began at Hostos Community College; Pete visited the classroom workshop often and performed at a concert celebrating the boat's completion in May 1997

summer 1996 Pete began mentoring Adam, inviting him up to his home in Beacon, calling him on the on phone at his parent's apartment (Adam's dad, a life-long Pete Seeger fan, got a huge kick out of picking up the phone calls—sometimes he didn't even pass the phone on to Adam, but just chatted with Pete himself), visiting in the Bronx, playing music together (Adam plays harmonica), and asking Adam to present about the work of Rocking the Boat at organizations like Clearwater and the Beacon Sloop Club

1997 A CNN news crew documented the construction of Rocking the Boat's first boat and interviewed Pete at its launch at The Harlem River Bronx Fest in August — the story was aired internationally

1998 Pete handwrote a recommendation letter that helped Adam win an Echoing Green fellowship to more fully develop Rocking the Boat

2001-2006 Rocking the Boat annually brought students up to Beacon to harvest oak and ash, go hiking, and camp. Pete would stay up and play music with them by the campfire; in the morning Toshi would make pancakes on griddles over a charcoal barbeque.

january 2002 Pete performed at Rocking the Boat's 174th Street storefront as part of an end-of-semester celebration. For the first time ever, Rocking the Boat asked non-community members to make contributions. $2,000 was raised.

2005 Pete joined Rocking the Boat's Advisory Board

2009 Pete was named the winner of the annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, given to "a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind's enjoyment and understanding of life." He agreed to accept the award on the condition that JPMorgan Chase Bank, the administrator, hold the event at Rocking the Boat. He also donated a significant amount of the prize money to Rocking the Boat

2013 Rocking the Boat dedicated its recently completed 29-foot whaleboat to Toshi at an event hosted by Rolling Stone Magazine co-founder Jane Wenner

april 2014 Rocking the Boat created the Pete and Toshi Seeger Alumni Award and presented it to Stephanie Jaquez

july 19, 2014 Rocking the Boat will host a Community Celebration as part of a four-day memorial of Pete and Toshi Seeger