A Man and His Dog Watch Over New York’s Hudson River
John Lipscomb is a fierce environmental advocate for one of America’s historic rivers. He and his dog Batu continuously patrol the Hudson and its tributaries, supporting scientific studies in their 36-foot wooden boat.
Capt. John Lipscomb has been patrolling New York’s Hudson River since the summer of 2000. He monitors the waterway on behalf of Riverkeeper, an environmentally focused nonprofit organization. Until a few years ago, he was usually alone out on the water. Now though, he enjoys the company of first mate Batu, a three-year-old yellow lab.
“He’s a little bored some days,” says John. “But he has cultivated friendships in so many of these places where we stay. He knows who has the milkbones, and who doesn’t.” A bag of Batu’s toys is always on board, including his favorite, a frisbee.
John and Batu cover more than 5,000 miles a year between April and December, following the river as far north as Troy and down to New York Harbor, a distance of more than 150 miles. Nights are always spent aboard the boat, a 36-foot wooden craft originally designed for harvesting shellfish in the Chesapeake Bay. Supremely stable in the water, the boat’s wide, mostly flat bottom makes it ideally suited to Riverkeeper’s needs: patrolling the river and its tributaries, supporting scientific studies and bringing members of the media and regional stakeholders out onto the river.
On a recent late summer afternoon, the captain and Batu set off from Kingston, close to the midway point of their patrol area. A tour boat passes, then a fishing boat soon after. Everyone aboard waves at John and Batu. “You always have to wave back,” he says.