Environmental Sail Program

The Environmental Sail Program (ESP) is a set of New Jersey Friends of Clearwater environmental educational initiatives that revolve around the original Clearwater goal--to build awareness of our environment, the effects of pollution on it, and humans' ability to cause it and to cure it. Like its Sloop Clearwater inspiration, our sailing vessel Pete's Banjo inspires both NJFC volunteers and guests to work as a team to achieve its goals.

Our sailing vessel, Pete's Banjo, is a 26' Tuckerton Sailing Garvey. It is a replica of a design used in the 17th century for oyster and clam gathering work in the shallow waters of the Tuckerton Bay. It is made entirely of wood and has no motor. It has been described as the pickup truck of the 1600's whereas the Sloop Clearwater was the 18-wheeler of the 18th and 19th Century Hudson River.

The Pete's Banjo is docked at the Oyster Point Hotel Marina at the bottom of Bodman Place.  It also had an alternate slip at the semi-circular dock at Marine Park in the summertime.  The partnership with Red Bank Recreation to allow for free sails on weekends has been a great success.  Before the pandemic, our  44th Annual NJFC Clearwater Festival, we had boatloads of fun with 5 sails while listening to music of our wonderful performers for the environment.  We haven't had so much fun since we left Sandy Hook.  See our Facebook site for great pictures of great fun at the Festival sails.

Our regular sails are back, launching from our Oyster Point slip on Tuesday evenings.  The sails start at 5pm. Fall sails will start at 1pm. Please check our Facebook and Twitter feeds below for the latest departures.

ESP initiatives include:

Sailing, Lots of Sailing. Both NJFC volunteers and guests get to sail on the beautiful Navesink River from May-June through October. To qualify to sail on the Pete's Banjo requires one thing; show up on scheduled weekly sail days. With ample notice, arrangements can be made with the captains to sail for pleasure or purpose on days other than those scheduled. Email: info@njclearwater.org.

Oyster Bed Creation And Maintenance. For over five years NJFC ESP had teamed with the NY/NJ Baykeeper Program to re-establish, after many decades, oyster beds in the Navesink River. With strong-willed and youthful volunteers from both programs, we've put down mountains of oyster shells on the riverbed and successfully laid down thousand of immature oysters at the aptly named Oyster Point shoals. 

In 2010, in ill-advised decision NJDEP banned shellfish research, restoration, and education projects in waters classified as  “restricted” for shellfish harvest. Baykeeper was forced to remove its oyster reefs in Keyport Harbor and the Navesink River.

With new leadership at NJDEP, a coalition of Clearwater, Baykeeper, NMHA,  and others have ramped up the campaign to reverse the ban for research and education, especially in the Navesink River. We look forward to working with our partners again and the opening of Jersey Shore waters for continued efficacy clean water filtration by the oyster beds .

TEF & ESP Synergy.  The Traveling Environmental Festival (TEF) and its twin program ESP have complementary and synergistic missions, i.e., Environmental Education and Environmental Action. While we can't bring Pete's Banjo into the traditional land-based, hands-on TEF Classroom, we will be bringing the TEF to the River and dockside--in season--to make the Clearwater TEF lessons more meaningful to the classroom or youth activity students. Those lessons--Food Web, Plankton, Life in the Water, Watershed, and Water Testing--can be conducted right on the Navesink, Shrewsbury, or other water bodies in the area. We would be happy to discuss a joint program with any organization. Our sailboat has two major advantages for this task: it has an extremely shallow draft and is large enough to hold 10 students.

Navesink Sea Scout Ship #5. Pete's Banjo is the flagship of Navesink Sea Scout Ship #5 and its young adult membership.

Boat Building. Pete's Banjo was designed, constructed over  20 months by Clearwater ESP members to replace the aging Adam Hyler. While the Adam Hyler was a true replica of the centuries' old design and original plank-caulk hull build techniques, the 26 foot Pete's Banjo will follow the design but has been built with modern techniques including fiberglassing the hull to be more maintainable and seaworthy in its role as keystone of our ESP.  The ESP has also teamed with NMHA to act as the flagship to lead and help youngsters navigate their own self-built River Ranger canoes on the Navesink. Pete’s Banjo' crew contributes the environmental lessons and acts as mother ship to that flotilla of young people  seeking unique wildlife upstream or the beauty of the wide Navesink downstream.

For the the full, detailed story  of the planning and construction of Pete's Banjo, it literally can fill up a book. In fact, that is exactly Senior NJFC Captain and program manager Tom Gibson did, he wrote the  book - Building a 26 Foot Tuckerton  Sailing Garvey - detailing all the thought, planning, and over two years of effort, craftsmanship, and fun that  the dedicated construction and garvey crew had by replicating the Tuckerton Garvey once again and dedicating it to the great man who founded the Clearwater organization, Pete Seeger.

Building "Pete's Banjo" by Thomas A Gibson

The Garvey's name came from Pete's constant companion, his banjo, and the inspirational motto that Pete lived by and which is inscribed on his banjo's face: "THIS MACHINE SURROUNDS HATE AND FORCES IT TO SURRRENDER" [sic].  It's the motto that we at NJ Friends of Clearwater and all other Sloop Clearwater members strive to emulate.

Our original 30-year old replica garvey, the Adam Hyler, was donated to the Tuckerton Seaport Museum in March 2014 while Pete's Banjo was being constructed. When the Seaport Museum Director first saw the Adam Hyler in 2008, he exclaimed it was the largest and only Sailing Tuckerton Garvey extant. He had campaigned since then to bring it to the Museum. When it finally exceeded its safe lifetime, we donated to a very appreciative Museum. Appropriately we dock at Oyster Point Hotel Marina at the end of Bodman Place in Red Bank, NJ.  The Boat Committee sails and maintains the boat and runs the Environmental Sail Program.​