Unity Riders and Two Row, Festival at Beacon
Paddlers woke up in Pughkeepsie shortly after 7:00 am and were greeted with an overcast sky that was a welcome change from the heat of the day before. We could all feel the excitement for the day ahead and were eager to get onto the water. We set out, drifting along the freshwater, letting the tide push us north as we got into two row formation, something that is not always an easy task with so many paddlers, boats, and currents. We paddled in formation towards the bridge over the Hudson and the Unity Riders. As each stroke took us closer to the bridge we began to make out riders, a huge banner with the Two Row, and heard drumming and singing. Paddling under the bridge with the unity riders and over 1000 supporters above us gave us all a huge sense of strength and joy.
As we headed further south the wind began to pick up and we took an unplanned stop at a beautifully and lovingly restored train station. We were given a warm welcome by the friends of the Milton on the Hudson train station who were gracious enough to let paddlers use their facilities and we were even treated to doughnuts!
As we launched and headed towards to the Marlborough Yacht Club we realized that the strong wind was now blowing against the tide, creating sizeable swells and we were all soon paddling through white caps. We paddled, faces to the wind, canoes getting some air as they reached each wave. On the water we were supported by an incredible group of safety paddlers, the auxiliary coast guard, and the sheriff. We arrived, quite tired to singing and drumming and were treated to a delicious meal by our hosts at the Yacht Club.
We then had to make the difficult decision to have only the strongest paddlers continue onto Beacon, where a day-long festival was being held to celebrate and draw attention to the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign. Yacht club members, the sheriff, and coast guard were incredible and shuttled many exhausted paddlers to the festival and meal in Beacon. A small group of about thirty of the strongest paddlers, mostly in kayaks, went back on the water to escort the Two Row Wampum Belt carried by Hickory all the way from the Onondaga Nation south of Syracuse, NY to our evening’s stop in Beacon. It was important to us not to break the continuity of the belt’s journey by water all the way to NYC.
Four-foot swells moving in all directions greeted the kayakers as soon as we took to the river and it wasn’t long before one kayak tipped over and sent its paddler swimming. Safety paddlers acted quickly and the half sunk kayak was quickly emptied and the paddler was soon back on his way. A tremendous amount of planning and daily safety meetings have provided an extremely effective response to this type of incident. With such a large number of paddlers including many novice boaters, challenging weather conditions and other unforeseen circumstances, spills are bound to happen, but the knowledge that we have such a crack team of safety boaters allows all of us to paddle with the utmost confidence that we can do so safely at all times.
The small group stopped just before the Newburg Bridge for a quick breather and then lined up in two rows for the last mile of paddling. As soon as they were in sight of the Two Row Festival, the crowd there began cheering and encouraging them for the final push to shore.
As soon as all the boats were landed, the paddlers quickly formed two rows of walkers to escort the Two Row Belt carried by Hickory Edwards to the stage. Andy Major greeted the crowd and the paddlers, then words of wisdom and encouragement were shared by Oren Lyons and Pete Seeger. Andy also introduced the Two Row Petition that is beginning to circulate and was followed by the story of the Great Law of Peace as told by Pete Seeger.
The evening wound down as all the paddlers were fed a wonderful spread of food donated by Fishkill Farm, Beacon Naturally, and many others at the Beacon Sloop Club. We were shuttled to camping just south of Beacon in a supporters backyard in a quiet riverside neighborhood. The small camp-site gave the sense of a burgeoning and bustling community.