|Photo Cred: Fair Transport Shipping|
By now, many of you have probably heard about modern forays into sail transport. There are small-scale operations popping up in predictable places, like Seattle, and less-predictable ones, like Michigan Then, there are the ‘big’ operations: Tres Hombres, pictured above, is a 126 ton schooner which has been transporting chocolate and wine across the Atlantic for the European market. These guys are smart, and very media-savvy. In this excellent short video their captain, Andreas Lackner, points out that they aren’t in a position to compete with big shipping companies. Instead, their mission is show that if sail transport can be done, profitably, on a small ship there’s no reason it couldn’t be scaled up. (Although I can’t help but wonder how much of the cargo goes missing during the voyage…)
There are some big guns behind this idea of scaling up, also based in Holland. The Naval Architecture firm Dykstra has put serious resources into designs for the ‘Ecoliner’ which will be a high-tech hybrid/sail propulsion cargo ship.
The ‘Ecoliner’ design utilizes sets of computer-controlled squarish sails which sit on rotating masts, called a DynaRig. This rig is designed to be operated by an absolute minimum of people and it has already made its way off of the drawing board and onto the 289-foot megayacht ‘Maltese Falcon’
Sails on the ‘Maltese Falcon’ are largely computer-controlled and the ship can be sailed by a single person.
Sail transport is not just a way to cope with global warming, it is also a means of getting supplies to remote places which desperately need them. Take YachtAid Global. This is an organization which links up sailors (and motorboaters) with aid organizations in isolated communities and disaster areas, the idea being that aid can be delivered by boats which are already headed that direction. It’s an admirable concept, although I have to confess that my stomache turns a bit at the idea of a luxury motoryacht stopping to drop off a few supplies on their way to a five-star resort or private island in some economically desperate country. Much more my style are the smaller and often informal networks run by cruising sailors. Over the years we’ve met plenty of folks helping bring medical aid to Cuba, or disaster relief supplies to Haiti and other locations in the Caribbean.
Not-quite-coincidentally, this brings me to a question for anyone reading this out there on the internet. My sister Pippin, who helped found a Community Printshop here in New Orleans, has been volunteering at a community center in Jacmel, Haiti. They are building a printshop and teaching people the skills to start small screenprinting businesses. Unfortunately the mail system in Haiti is still virtually non-functional so they’ve been forced to fly with all their supplies but they’ve run into a problem in that there are one or two essential items which aren’t allowed on a plane. We’re searching for a person or organization who might be able to help transport a small box of supplies down there by boat. I would love to hear from anyone who is sailing to Haiti or knows of a Yacht Aid-type organization which brings supplies there.
In the meantime, I hope to see a lot more sailboats out there with holds full of cargo!