Thanksgivukah

IMG_0042

When Captain Steve (Schwartz) began to get acquainted with the project and learned that he'd be working with me and first mate Jordan Finkelstein, he started to get excited about a lot of things.  The funniest of them was maybe this exclamation.  "What are the odds!  Three jews sailing food down the Hudson River!"  I think it was the menorah on my piano that tipped him off, as we were in my house at the time.  But I had to tamp down his enthusiasm a little, saying I am really not that much of a jew.  Though I enjoy a seder every year and we do hannukah with the kids, I am really a lapsed Quaker if I am anything at all.  Still, it was a funny moment, one that stood out in an endeavor replete with funny moments.

And now with Thanksgivukah at a close, the first and last Thanksgivukah any of us will ever know, we give thanks for the Mayflower, the perky little ship that helped the Pilgrims sail from Judea to escape the religious oppression of the Seleucid Empire, and for the Maccabees they met in the New World who saved them from starvation by teaching  them how to make latkes and jelly doughnuts, and how to properly cook a turkey brisket, and of course for the oil that unexpectedly lasted the pilgrims through their entire first winter in Massachusetts, and many things besides.

I personally am especially thankful for the support and understanding of my family as we pulled this thing off and proved our point, an undertaking that did more and demanded more of us than we had imagined at the outset.  I am thankful for the many partners who helped pull this all off, too. We made many great connections along the way, including Chipman Point Marina, the City of Mechanicville and Southern Saratoga Chamber of Commerce, Transition Albany/Troy, the Hudson Sloop Club, the Hudson Maritime Museum in Kingston, Riverside Marina in Newburgh, the Beacon Sloop Club, Hook Mountain Yacht Club, the Science Barge in Yonkers, the Sloop Clearwater, Brooklyn Navy Yard and New Amsterdam Farmers' Market.  What a roundup!

I am thankful for the help Greenhorns USA gave us in filling gaps in our organization as we plied our route for the first time, and for help in getting the word out.  Greeenhorns works tirelessly to advance agrarian revival and the interests of the next generation of farmers.  If you are passionate about these issues that are so vital to the future of our region, take a look at Greenhorns' ambitious program and please consider supporting them.

Lastly and most importantly, Vermont Sail Freight Project owes a huge debt of gratitude to our sponsor the Willowell Foundation, whose director Matt Schlein went way out on a limb and took a chance on my vision of a Lake Champlain and Hudson River repopulated with working sail.  Willowell has wrangled volunteers, helped with countless hours of administrative support, has provided financial security and support to the project.  As project director I pledged to seek funding to get the project off the ground, but did not fully succeed in this and our venture still struggles with unfunded project creation costs.  We have been unable to offer much compensation to those who worked so hard to bring the project about.  And particularly due to our high insurance costs, Willowell continues to carry a fiscal burden but yet has refused to abandon the Vermont Sail Freight Project or to drastically reduce it in scope.  So, if Thanksgivukah or the coming of Christmas has put you in a giving frame of mind, if the voyage of the Ceres has brought a sense of adventure and hope to your year, please consider supporting them as we have high hopes to carry on in 2014 and still need support (tax-deductible)!  In fact if you are in our area you can come to the Willowell Annual Fundraiser at the Vergennes Opera House this coming Saturday, December 14th.  BandAnna is playing and it will be a fantastic time.  We will be auctioning off some dinner tickets and a cruise aboard Ceres in 2014!  Hope to see you there and Happy Holidays!

On one last note, this blog is so close to the 100,000 views mark!  97,000 to date!  Tell a friend and help us claim that accomplishment by New Year's Eve!

Erik

Following in the wake of the Thames Sailing Barge

spinnaker breeze 001 I was recently introduced to this book (with a title that I very much hope will ultimately turn out to be inaccurate), The Last of the Sailormen, written by Bob Roberts, and first published in 1960.  Probably at that point the prospect of renewed sailing trade was as bleak as it could be.  Well, it's still pretty challenging, but perhaps reports of the death of sail will turn out to be greatly exaggerated.

I am not very far into it, but I wanted to share the preface with you to give you a taste of the world of Mr. Roberts so you can see how his themes resonate with our work here at VSFP.  Perhaps is easy to write off the intangible virtues of doing work in a slower, more deliberate way when it has become an ingrained cultural habit that we will make seemingly any sacrifice in the name of progress.

Bear in mind that the world of work that Bob Roberts lived in was no holdout of medieval cargo methodology but was in fact a highly refined and efficient system, one that endured and remained economically viable in England into the 1970s, at which point the barges began to degrade.  In the U.S. we stopped hoisting commercial sail at least 70 years prior, so it strikes me that in many ways we have a lot to learn from our historical counterparts in Britain.

Much of this book has been written in a barge's cabin, rolling at anchor in Yarmouth Roads, storm-bound under the lee of the Yantlet Flats, waiting to load at Keadby or while lying idle in London River.  I have not attempted to glorify or exaggerate this account of life in a type of sailing craft which is one of the most unique and efficient in the world.  It is a life in which, to my mind, the pleasantness, satisfaction and occasional thrills, calling for the exercise of a man's more sterling qualities, far outweight the times of hardship and frustration.

Sailing barges, like farm horses, belonged to a more peaceful and expansive age than the uncertain, war-wracked, nervy, money-grubbing years to which mankind has descended.  A bargeman knows nothing of regular working hours, overtime pay, crowded city trains, noisy, bustling streets, or the clanging hell of a vast, modern factory.  Like the fisherman, the wildfowler, and the farm hand, he lives by the winds and the weather, the tides and the seasons.  The artificial sort of life which shackles millions of people to great, powerful industries is something foreign to him and something to which he cannot adjust himself.  He has never known what it is to be pushed, shoved, and ordered about like the clever town-dweller who comes and gapes at him with a sympathetic curiosity.

Barge-like hulls are the most ancient of all English sailing craft and the art of handling shallow draft vessels has been handed down through hundreds and hundreds of years.  It is not a thing you can learn at a university.  That the epidemic of mechanisation which has spread all over the world and eliminated the square-rigged ships, schooners and sailing smacks should in time leave the barges rotting in their salty creeks has for long been inevitable.  But at least it can be said that when all other wind-driven vessels had gone into history the fleets of spritsail-rigged sailing barges held their own for many years against an ever increasing number of steam and motor ships, and might still have prospered had new hulls been built and new blood encouraged to learn the ways of the sea in the best, though hardest, school."

Bob Roberts

Pin Mill, Suffolk (From Last of the Sailormen, 1960, Seafarer Books London

coal from the north 001

Homecoming

Last Thursday afternoon Ceres returned to the boat ramp in Ferrisburgh where we first put her in the water not quite four months ago, after a deck-soaking eight-day passage up from Brooklyn.  Not easy to do when operating only in daylight at this season of shortening days, but the crew (Steve, Tianna, Jordan, and Brian) made better than 30 miles a day on average, under sail much of the time.  Of course there were fewer stops along the way, and no expectations of holding a market in each town either, just a run for home in a boat without heat or hot water with winter coming up hard on their wake. Ceres returns to the farm

As for me, I returned to the farm just a few days ahead of the crew.  It's great to be home.  I was away over a month with the Project, certainly the longest I've been away from my home and family since the boys were born.  I don't enjoy that part of the work too much.  It's been a strenuous season, what with trying to hold the farming operations together and launching this endeavor too...trying to make it to wintertime with the household still on speaking terms.  Well, now winter is at our doorstep, and I am relishing the immobility and limitations to human activity it brings with it more than I usually do.  This winter at least I won't be concocting new schemes that will make all my saner acquaintances roll their eyes--I am sure I will have enough to do just putting a better polish on schemes already in motion.  That is, I'll do what polishing I can, in between the normal domestic round of building fires, feeding animals, and dad stuff.

Winter fire at Boundbrook

There's still work out there to do of course.  Some of it is still fairly pressing.  We hauled Ceres out of the water with a tractor on Friday and in the process broke a spindle on the running gear (the trailer frame we use to carry the boat around on roads).  Note to self: next time remove ballast before hauling the boat.  We have 5000 lbs of ballast in cement slabs in the bilges of Ceres.  Yes, we can remove them and take them back to the barn with a different vehicle, but it's not...convenient.  Still, it's more convenient than breaking your boat hauling mechanism.  What does that say, that we take the barge 660 miles, through some tough conditions right at the waning of the year and return to have our first major equipment failure...in the parking lot.  I guess that's luck.  Or, more accurately, our vigilance dropped off a cliff the moment we had the barge hauled out of the water.  Whatever the reason, I am very grateful for John Baker of Wildflower Ironworks who came to the rescue of Ceres yesterday and spent several hours grinding and welding while lying under the boat in cold gravel.  The repair held (since we had removed the ballast and everything else heavy over the weekend) and we had a speedy trip back to the farm.

John Baker saves the day

Did I mention that VSFP is, I think, the only Vermont source of Brooklyn Roasting Company coffee, of which we back-hauled a modest little cargo?  This is our little foray into bringing a little bit of the Brooklyn Mystique back north with us.  Until Ceres sails again in the spring you can get it from the farm, or we'll bring it to Burlington or Middlebury if you order some.  We have 9oz cans of Iris Espresso, Sumatra Permato, Peru, Mocha Java, Ethiopian Yirge Cheffe, and Decaf Peru  ($9 per can).  When we hit the water in 2014 the coffee will be available along with our other offerings, including the first run 0f 2014 syrup to sweeten the coffee with if you are inclined that way.  The coffee is all fair trade certified, by the way.

I'm very grateful as always for having had the opportunity to see this thing through, and for the friends who came along for the ride.  We started a lot of good conversations.  We shipped a lot of goods.  And there are still parts of the vision still to pursue next year.  For instance we have only really started to master Ceres' sailing potential.  Observers will surely have noted that we had only our lowers rigged.  Given how stable we are under sail, it seems we really need to get the two remaining sails rigged to achieve our potential.  Plus there are significant alterations that are needed for the sails we already have.  We managed, but if we are to make the usage of sail a centerpiece of the effort (and this is still very much my goal) then we need to make the rig really work.  This and many other challenges lie ahead.

Many changes to the business are in the offing too, but for a start I'll say that we are looking to acquire permits to be able to transport and distribute cider, beer, and wine in NY state.  Retail liquor sales are not feasible for us, but we could deal with stores and restaurants who could tout their connection to the project and the river to their customers.  Another is the possible upgrading of the boat (we only lack in a few particulars) for the billeting of passengers à la windjammer cruises, only writ much smaller.  Share a day in the life of Ceres, have your own sleeping cabin, meals provided, etc.  Get on in Kingston, get off in Peekskill.  Typical mid-range B and B rates.  If you have any thoughts on whether this might appeal, please comment!

Icicles hanging from the rubrail

Beans, delivered by Sailing Barge

Next Project -- Dirigible!

The Vermont Airship Freight Project! airship2

Just kidding....I think!

But if airships aren't the answer of the question, where do we go from here, then what is?  The answer is pretty simple.  We do it again.  And over time we will get better and better at this.  Our first trip with cargo was like a fair, a fun and crazy fair at times, and every one on our team were reeling to cope with challenges of all kinds.  Everyone performed above and beyond the call of duty, and those who have been reading me for a while can easily see what I mean when I say that this project has grown quite a bit from its genesis as one farmer's quirky idea of using watercraft to transport cargo as a kind of off-kilter business model and activist statement.  We're all tired, we're ready for winter.  Or at least I am, and I can probably speak for most of the crew in this regard.

CeresunderBB

But fun as a fair can be, the ultimate goal is for us to become ordinary.  The day when Ceres is just another sailing barge on the Hudson, not really worth of a second look, will be the day the project has become ultimately successful.  In the meantime, we'll be doing our best to keep our effort present in the public eye and dialog while also becoming better at our jobs.

But back to the mission for a moment.  Last I left you we had just arrived in New York Harbor.  We had a great time with our markets and celebrating our feat both in Brooklyn and at New Amsterdam market near the Fulton Fish Market site.  The enormous pile of bottles I told you about?  Well, we clinked a few glasses but no three-day bender ever came of it.  Blessedly both the workload and the liquor consumption are backing down to reasonable levels now that the business is ashore and we are no longer looking down the barrel of seemingly impossible-to-meet commitments both on land and on water.

20131026_162607

First I have to come clean a little bit about my feelings about New York City.  I call myself a Vermonter, see, but I am basically an upstate guy, born and bred in New York well north of Poughkeepsie and raised on a healthy diet of antipathy towards the city.  In fact come to think, of it just calling New York City "the city" always rankled a little, as if there are no cities elsewhere in the world, or even in New York State.  But I have to say that I am warming to it.

The thing is, the city is so multi-layered that no matter what you are into, there is a lot of it in close proximity around here.   Even farming!  And at breakfast this morning the waitstaff in the Astro Diner were discoursing with customers in four languages (English, Spanish, French, Greek)!  You don't get that in Vermont, where I am now especially conscious of the whiteness and English-only-ness of my boys' social milieu.  So despite the fact that in the end I still want to go back to my little valley, hobbit style, and spend the winter feeding the woodstove, I have made some really great friendships and connections along the way and here in the harbor area in particular.     The collegiality and generosity with which both myself and the project as a whole have been received is incredible, and this has forever altered my perception of this place, and changed my thinking about the kinds of collaborations that we might be able to undertake.  In particular we are grateful for the hospitality of Marc Agger of the Brooklyn Fish Transfer and to Matt Hopkins of Brooklyn Navy Yard for hosting the dockage of Ceres and our scheduled project-related events.

Brooklyn Navy Yard is a really unique place.  Most of the time while working on the final disposition of the cargo and markets I spent the night on board Ceres at the dock here.  The yard is really like a city unto itself, with streets, bike lanes, a cafe, but is also a secure industrial park.  Everyone here from the tugboat company to Marc Agger's staff to Navy Yard security and administration has been absolutely terrific.  I would go so far as to say that our involvement with Navy Yard was yet another one of those things in the trajectory of this project that turned out to be totally crucial, and we were largely unaware of just how crucial until fairly late in the game.

Navy Yard has a history of shipbuilding, docking, and warehousing going back hundreds of years, and its management has become very proactive about repurposing the yard for changing times.  The evidence is all around you here--as a vertical axis wind turbine fan I noticed the Darrius rotors collecting wind energy on the streetlamp posts right away.  And many business startups are taking up residence too.  It seems to me that VSFP could be a good fit with this community, particularly as we become more predictable and seasoned, in that we can help carry the Brooklyn mystique north along our route through "craft transport."  We're doing this already, as Ceres has taken on a cargo of fair-trade Brooklyn Coffee Roasters coffee with the intent to sell it in the North.  I bet it will be a hit.

20131029_172210

20131029_172241

20131029_172256

As of this moment Ceres is on her way north, and has reached or passed Nyack.  We are trying to get an AIS signal up so that the barge tracker will function for the remainder of the      return journey.  I have stayed behind to take care of some loose ends and will catch up at some point.  We still have some unsold cargo that Patrick and I are working to dispose of.  So, if you have a store or a restaurant in the city,  and need some great yukon gold potatoes, or flour, or garlic or dry beans, we still have several pallets of Ceres' cargo here at Navy Yard and would love to get it into your kitchen.  Get in touch if you're interested!  We'll have a complete list of the remainder shortly.

20131027_171353

I am so proud of our crew!

Ceres has arrived in NYC

As many of you are aware, our plucky little cargo ship Ceres has made it to NYC with barely a scratch on her.  The last few days have been very intense, and it has been very difficult for me to sit down and write, feeling very drained both physically and emotionally, yet also knowing there is a huge amount of work to do in the coming days for which we all need to conserve our energy. nyc oct 24 023

Night before last we tied up to the hip of the majestic sloop Clearwater who in turn was tied up to the fascinating Science Barge in Yonkers.  Now I don't know too much about Yonkers other than that there was a set-piece battle there against the zombies in the book World War Z.  Now, the Science Barge would be an awesome  place to hold out against the zombies.  They capture rainwater, produce their own energy and food...

Anyway, containment of an outbreak of zombie virus was pretty much the last thing on our minds as we joined the crew of Clearwater for a pizza dinner that couldn't be beat (Clearwater boasts a very impressive galley).  Jordan couldn't help but notice that there are regular mealtimes on Clearwater, not like on Ceres where Steve and I routinely work past the point of being fairly hungry.  But poor Jordan needs meals at regular intervals in order not to get cranky.  And in order to be a big enough guy to be able to walk around in rough neighborhoods too of course.

nyc oct 24 032nyc oct 24 030

We met a few members of the public briefly in Yonkers although we were so tired from a blowout market in Nyack we couldn't bring ourselves to break up the holds and have any sort of a market.  Someone asked me what our plans are for once the cargo is sold, would we arrange for back-hauling to the north?  I answered that probably once the cargo is sold the crew of Ceres would probably not sober up for several days.  I was only partly joking.

This has been an incredibly exciting and meaningful journey and is hopefully opening the door to something that can grow and last.  It's also been very strenuous in every way, being always on the move and alert for hazards, watching the current and the time and the wind and trying to avoid the much larger and faster commercial vessels that can swamp us with their wakes, plus lifting cargo over and over and over again.  We have done this as a team with widely varied personalities and skillsets, all working through conflict and way past the point of being tired enough to call it a day.  And when the day is done the empty bottles tend to pile up.  When there is finally no work to do the following day I imagine it could be a pretty large pile of bottles indeed.  So you can see that this is a different life than the one I am accustomed to living as a small farmer in Vermont, but not without its own unique rewards, and with a kind of cameraderie that makes us all feel a little like we've come through the wars together.  When we haul Ceres out and put the project to bed for the winter I imagine I'll have very mixed and conflicting feelings about it, just as I do now.

Before dawn the next day we slipped our lines and started down past the Pallisades.  The skyline of the city had been in view since we passed under the Tappan Zee Bridge, but grew as we drew closer.  By 8:30 in the morning we passed under the George Washington and began sailing down the West Side under a freshening west wind.  The commercial traffic was intense, as we knew it would be, and we were heaving and rolling around like the small underpowered boat that we really are in no time.  Captain Steve at first tried to turn to meet wakes bow-on, but before too long there were so many workboats, barges, ferries, tugs, and water taxies that waves were flying every which way and there was no turning to meet each one.  Therefore we just sailed south and hoped for the best.

nyc oct 24 048nyc oct 24 039

 

The barge always seemed to gracefully swim out of the toughest wakes and chop, throwing up spray.  Our greatest fear was swamping the outboard which we would need for backup power in the East River.  In the end all was fine, our fine barge rose to each challenge gloriously.  Captain Steve, who had been dubious about the seaworthiness of the barge right from the start was ready to hug me and declare me a master shipbuilder by the time we had rounded the battery.  Well, we were all a little giddy.  We had made it to New York!  How could this get any better?

We found just how it would get better when we reached the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Now here is a place with a pedigree of ship building and docking going back centuries.  Our host and partner Mark Agger has helped create the perfect cargo terminus arrangement, and his crew are busy even as I write these lines in helping us offload the cargo and arrange it in a warehouse big enough to have a game of football inside, field goal posts and all.  Our volunteers are rallying to the call, and we are organizing everything and making up orders in anticipation of lively markets this Saturday and Sunday plus delivery of our wholesale orders through our partnership with Revolution Rickshaws' cargo trikes.  Not only that but Mark has offered to help VSFP make arrangements to buy Brooklyn Coffee Roasters coffee, many pallets of which are already stocked in the Agger Fish warehouse just at hand.  It's fair trade, of excellent quality and reputation, and is exactly what I had in mind for back hauling.  And here it is, ready to load.  I can hardly believe it.

20131025_103733

 

20131025_103830  20131025_103809 20131025_103603

 

 

 

 

Storm King and Breakneck

Ceres has just passed through the North Gate of the Hudson Highlands, between the mountains Storm King and Breakneck, through the area the Dutch called the "Warragut," or "Weather Hole.  A final resting place for a lot of ships, but we sailed through it today during a near total calm without the least anxiety.  

Oct 22 2013 032 Oct 22 2013 028

Oct 22 2013 041

Oct 22 2013 030

This same weather that has been so kind to us in terms of markets -- the beautiful days just go on and on -- is not so great for sailing towards the south.  Day after day we have the wind right on the nose.  This has made for less sailing than I had hoped.  This being the first time out, our schedule was laid in pretty far in advance.  Schedules and sailing vessels are really a poor match and we've done the best we can to balance between being on time so that our land-based partners can plan for our arrival and maximizing sail.  Hopefully in the future we'll be able to develop a more flexible schedule that will have fewer distance imperatives built into it.  But for the time being we have the schedule we have and the weather we have, and all together we have a lot to be thankful for as the voyage has gone quite well so far.

 

Oct 22 2013 043

We have just departed Beacon where we had a great market and delivered a huge batch of pre-orders.  Beacon could really use a better pier so we can dock closer to the land (anyone on the Beacon City Concil reading this?  Maybe dredge out and repair the old ferry landing?) but we managed despite a 300 foot walk between our market setup and the boat.  Which is tough when you have 160 products!  But as I said it was a terrific market, followed by some beer and Chinese food eaten in the Galley.  The boat was reloaded just after dark,m with little to do the following morning, so the coffee was made and Ceres was underway well before sunrise today.

 

Oct 22 2013 021

Oct 22 2013 020

Our market in Newburgh on Saturday was not quite so successful.  Not nearly as many farmers were in attendance, mostly a mix of flea market type activity and various organizations passing out leaflets.  Riverside Marina was a great host, though.  The funniest, though also the most alarming aspect of the visit was when I sent First Mate Jordan to go buy us some bagels.  We're downstate now, so bagels ought to be everywhere, right?  Not like Vermont.  But despite his iphone nav system--actually partly because of it--Jordan got one bum steer after another, walking six miles into some pretty sketchy neighborhoods.  One teenager was having some sort of an argument in a house Jordan walked past, and ran down the steps, shouting, "No, I ain't gonna do it!  It ain't worth it.  The guy is too big!"

Lucky thing we feed Jordan well, or else maybe he might not have been too big.  And he might have been worth it.  Whatever "it" is.  And hey, maybe it was some other big guy who was being discussed, anyway.... Whatever the case, Jordan didn't stick around to find out, and so we didn't lose our first mate in Newburgh.  But it does serve to remind us that not all the risks in this mission are in the form of shoals and squalls.  There's plenty of potential for sailors to get in trouble ashore, too.  Which just goes to show, there really is nothing new under the sun.

 

Oct 22 2013 017

Events for the Lower Hudson Valley and NYC

We are having a great time marketing our way down the Hudson River.  Everywhere we go we are delighted to make new friends at dockside.  Now we are coming to the final phase of this odyssey, the goal that all of this work has been leading up to for well over a year.  Some of you readers out there have been reading me since long before we had a boat, a crew, a cargo, all there was was a lone farmer's loopy idea of building a sail cargo vessel to unify the goals of low-impact water trade and revitalization of the regional foodshed.  An idiotic concept that would have certainly died at any bank loan officer's desk or any self-respecting boardroom table. 20131018_090606

99% of the time I am still so immersed in the challenges of the day to day that I fail to appreciate the big picture, but occasionally it's worth taking a moment to consider how far we've come, and how this whole endeavor is really the product of teamwork and community-building on a regional scale.  Sailing through this stunningly beautiful land on a handsome (yes, handsome) craft we all made together by hand, working alongside friends whose values I share, I feel incredibly fortunate that despite all the havoc the last 70 or so years of rapid "development" that have been wreaked on this landscape and its human culture, there is still beauty there, and there is still potential to rediscover a more benign way of living together.  VSFP artist, builder and stevedore Brian Goblick has termed this a "utopian reality project."  Now, maybe I wouldn't go that far, but the mere fact that we are here, on the final approach to NYC, suggests that community-driven approaches to change can't be written off as categorically unworkable.

20131018_090626

Here is the roundup of our coming events.  I'm going to put this in its own page in the menu bar, too.  Some of these events may be subject to change but as of this moment this is the authoritative, final word on the trajectory of Ceres for the final 10 days of our first southbound voyage with cargo

  • NEWBURGH oct 19
  • location and time:
  • waterfront 10-4pm
  • Market and participation in the Newburgh Fall Festival
  • Ceres will  be by Torches restaurant at the waterfront.
  •  
  • BEACON oct 20
  • location and time:
  • Beacon Farmers’ Market: 11am-3pm
  • at the river by the train station
  • Farmer’s market and picnic with Beacon Sloop Club
  • http://www.thebeaconfarmersmarket.com/
  • http://www.beaconsloop.org/
  •  
  • NYACK oct 22
  • Location and time:
  • 11-4
  • Market at Hook Mountain Marina
  • in conjunction with Pie Lady and Son
  • YONKERS oct 24
  • location and time:
  • Groundwork Hudson Valley Science Barge, time TBD
  • Downtown Yonkers just North of the Yonkers Pier.
  • http://www.groundworkhv.org/programs/science-barge/
  • BROOKLYN oct 26
  • Location and time:
  • Brooklyn Navy Yard, 3-5pm, reception after
  • Building # 313
  • Event:
  • In partnership with Agger Fish and Brooklyn Grange
  • Cargo demonstration with Revolutionary Rickshaws. Reception and market at the BROOKLYN NAVY YARD Warehouse with Brooklyn Grange, triple island, Agger Fish, Marlow and Daughters , the Pines. Pumpkin carving, art installation with Mare Liberum and other nautical artists. MORGAN OKANE plays from 3-4:30pm.
  •  
  • MANHATTAN oct 27
  • location and time:
  • New Amsterdam Market 11am-4pm
  • South Street between Beekman Street and Peck Slip
  • Event:
  • pumpkin carving, doughnut frying, music and market
  • and a toast to the first of many VSFP runs!
  • http://www.newamsterdammarket.org/
  •  
  • NY oct 28
  • Vermont Sail Freight Prix Fixe Dinner with Beer Pairings
  • Jimmy's No. 43
  • 43 East 7th St. btwn 2nd and 3rd Ave.
  • please RSVP online for this paid event.
  • http://jimmysno43.com/

We just had a great time in Kingston where we were kindly hosted by the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston.  Sold some cargo (Ceres floats an inch higher than 24 hours ago, and that's 2000 lbs of cargo), led some school groups through a tour of Ceres and what she represents to their fine city and its longstanding heritage of waterborne freight, and even played some music.  Thanks especially to Patrick McDonough and Lana at the museum and to Gai Galetzine and Pamlela Boyce-Simms for being such great hosts.  Photographer Jim Peppler took these photos and I hope to post some directly onto the blog soon.

In the meantime, enjoy these, taken just outside Kingston.20131016_070501  20131016_070347

Adieu, Hudson, we'll be back.

We had a great time in the town of Hudson, a spot well known to our Greenhorns collaborators.  We had friends to meet us at the dockside, the Hudson Sloop Club.  Nick Zachos of the club in particular went way out of his way and really helped make our visit to Hudson a success.  A pleasant dock, a fun and supportive crowd, and I even got to play the accordion a little.  You can read all about our time in today's Register Star right here! Some of the team got into the bottle a bit after it got dark.  Sailors...you know how it is.  Even I got into it a bit in the atmosphere of general euphoria that what we are about here not only seems to be working, but is even beginning to be taken seriously.  After some limey gin drinks I wobbled back to the boat.  With no pressing need to depart the next morning and with a bit of a fuzzy head, I began wandering around the fine town of Hudson in search of a diner.

001

 

Hudson is a really interesting town, and actually was a whaling port at one time.  I was told that the whalers favored it because the barnacles on their hulls died and fell off in the fresh water (the salt water doesn't set in until around Poughkeepsie).  There is some stunning brickwork warehouse architecture and the facades of the row buildings on the main street evoke a grand past for this significant river trading center.

.004

 

Anyway, it didn't take me too long to fine to find Tanzy's diner. and found the Register Star with the picture of Ceres on the front page.  The two waitresses there served an awesome two-egg breakfast with some perfect hash browns and kept the coffee coming, which was just what I needed.  I mentioned that I was with the Ceres, and they were all excited about that.  I was just getting into my second or third cup when the Captain (Steve) and Jordan came in looking like something the cat dragged in, which was odd because I hadn't told them where I was going but they found me anyway.  So they sat down at my table and I introduced them to the waitresses which upped the ante of the visit to Tanzy's a little bit.  Once having established that I was buying, they both ordered big breakfasts. Steve wanted to add a pancake to his, but our waitress warned him that they were mighty big pancakes.

"If I eat it all, do I get my breakfast for free?" Steve asked.

The waitress agreed, but I put a stop to the wager right away.  Steve is not a real big guy but I know he can sock it away.  I told the waitress that I want them to get paid.  And good thing I did because all plates were clean at the end of the visit.

Now Ceres is off to Kingston, but not due there until Wednesday.  We are spending a free night with a friend of Steve's.  From here our odds of staying on schedule get better and better as the legs between stops get shorter and shorter.  005

Hudson-on-Hudson

Oct 14th2014 001  

I think at this point I have mastered at least the basic capabilities of my "boat office," portrayed above.  It is cramped and limited in power and shares space with several other functions, including chart monitoring and being stairs up to the deck.  But I like it.  Yesterday in Troy I bought a wire soap dish that is supposed to suction-cup to tiles or something, removed the suction cups, and screwed it to the wall.  Instant cord storage for all of the electronics gizmos!  The office and all other electrical are mostly run directly off the boat's 12-volt battery bank but we also have an inverter with which to run the printer, which looks awfully big in the small confines of the cabin.

It's not that Ceres is really that small of a boat, more that living space is minimized to maximize cargo.  We've been selling on the run, but are still carrying lots, and are down close to the designed waterline.  At the rate we are going though, we stand to be considerably lighter before we reach the City.  Any farmers in the mid-hudson looking to sell us some maple syrup to supplement our cargo?  Let us know!

Oct 14th2014 005

 

On the way through Albany we passed the replica of explorer Henry Hudson's ship, the Half Moon, which our skipper has captained at one time.  I love the look of this galleon-type hullform.  Plus it has cannons.  Though really the Half Moon is not that much of an order of magnitude bigger than Ceres.  In this vessel, as Pete Seeger put it, the native americans discovered Henry Hudson.

 

Oct 14th2014 008

Being in something of a rush to catch up, we buzzed through the port of Albany past some monster ships.  The superstructures boast perhaps the largest "No Smoking" sign you have ever seen.

Oct 14th2014 016 Oct 14th2014 026

Nightfall found Ceres still about six or seven miles north of Hudson.  We found a pleasant town dock at the town of Coxsackie and cooked up a nice meal of red peppers, rice and Kielbasa.  The night was totally quiet, except for the occasional creak of the rudder pins which prompted me to go up on deck in the middle of the night in my pyjamas and come up with a very unseamanlike but effective lashing.  Then total quiet, and a gentle rocking, and oblivion.  The motion of the boat is ridiculously sleep inducing once you are in a prone position.

Today dawned calm, with the current just at the end of the ebb.  We slipped the dock at 7:30 and made the most of the last of it, with the Hudson looking like old glass, with the subtle undulations and ripples you sometimes see in 19th-century windowpanes.  Different than Lake Champlain, where few currents are at play beneath the surface.

We arrived in Hudson to meet up with our on-site volunteers and are now setting up for a lively market!

Oct 14th2014 028

Hang on, we're in for some chop..

troyoct13 002 troyoct13 001Captain Steve calls this the "Big Boy Waters" but that's sexist, right? However you call it, we are in the tidal Hudson now, with stronger currents at play than in our home waters, and we're also sharing the river with more and larger vessels.  We had a great market in Troy this morning, meeting up with several kickstarter backers and lots of other enthusiastic Troy folks.

I met up with Duncan Crary, one of our champions in Troy, and had some good food and better beer at Brown's Brewing Co. brewpub in Troy.  This morning we set up for market both up on the parking lot outside the dockmaster's (another Erik) shed and also fanned out our wares on the dock right beside Ceres.  This was the same place where I came and saw the Lois McClure docked some months ago and it pleases me to have Ceres following in her wake!  Troy was really good to us.  So was Mechanicville.  And it is the greatest pleasure, the greatest honor, to be able to connect VSFP with these new friends, who see something in what they want for the future of the towns and cities they love in what we are doing with Ceres.  And I know we are passing by some towns too where we would love to stop too, but we must press on towards the south.

VSFP crew were aided in the market work with some local volunteers.  Charlie and others who had worked on the Onrust came to help us out too.  We saw the Onrust docked as we passed Waterford.  Next time we hope to visit.  We think Ceres has a scrappy pragmatic nature that the early Dutch colonists would have appreciated.

Before leaving we bartered some nice sandwiches for cargo from the owner of Deli-icious before pushing off the dock and heading south.  Perhaps we'll make Hudson this evening, we're making good time on the ebb tide that's pulling us, little by little, down to sea.

Docked in Troy

Ceres and crew are bracing for another busy day tomorrow as Troy turns out to welcome VSFP to the northern edge of Federal waters.  We'll be here at the parking lot near Brown's Brewery (where we just finished enjoying some great refreshements) from 9 to 1 tomorrow.  From here to NYC the bridges are either already high enough for our rig or are drawbridges or rotary bridges, so it's up with the rig.  A nice bit of functional theatre, and a way to prepare for sailing more in the days to come. The lower doors close behind us in Lock 12

Heading south from Whitehall

reflections above Stillwater

The historic shipping town of Whitehall

We'll not stave aboard if I have anything to say about it.

Lock 12, Whitehall NY

Troy docking details:

Now Ceres is making progress towards Troy.  We expect to land within the hour of this posting.  Here's a little added information about our docking:  It is just outside of Brown's Brewery, just to the north of the drawbridge.  The plan is to be open for sales from 9 am to 1 pm tomorrow, that's Sunday, October 13th. After Troy we get to raise the rig and begin sailing.  I can't wait!

Mechanicville Wall

If this trip continues anything along the lines of what we just experienced in the tow of Mechanicville, the boat will get a lot lighter and the crew is going to get a lot heavier. I can't understate the friendliness and helpfulness of the NY canal corporation lock masters and management as we made our way through nine locks yesterday.  We were met at the Mechanicville public dock, sometimes called Mechanicville Wall, by Pete Baraudinas of the local chamber of commerce who took us out for some much needed food and drink.  After sleeping like the dead until light, we were met by Matt Hosek of the local Rotary club (whose acquaintance I first made in Middlebury during the early, conceptual phase of the project) who took us to a wonderful breakfast at the Ugly Rooster.

At nine we started to break up the holds to make orders.  People came down to the docks much faster than we were prepared for!  We didn't have tables, a tent, a complete price list, or even a complete vision of what was where in the holds.  But folks were very friendly and patient.  Some moms showed up too, mine and Tiannas, and my wife Erica showed up with our two boys.  A very lively time, we were really hopping!  By 1 pm we had the barge repacked and reprovisioned and as of this writing we are southbound on the Hudson making for Troy.  I will upload pictures soon.

Mechanicville has already earned a special place in the hearts of those involved with this project.  But it is also a very small town.  Now the navigation aspect of the effort is getting under control, but we are wondering how we will manage when we land in towns and cities further to the south that are many orders of magnitude larger than Mechanicville.  We can only do our best, but with such friendliness at the dockside and sailing through a stunning landscape under azure skies, it's hard not to be optimistic.

For folks in Troy, the plan now is this: we plan on landing there around 5 or 6 this evening and setting up for sales tomorrow morning.  We'll remain open for business until 1 p.m.  We should be set up by 9 am so this will give us four hours at the dock.  Look forward to seeing you there.

Pictures will be forthcoming!

A Voyage Begins

As of this writing I am back at the farm in Ferrisburgh with the sun setting.  I've been off of Ceres long enough that the earth no longer feels like it's rolling and pitching beneath me.  So I am home, at least for the moment, but the sailing barge Ceres is not.  Ceres' voyage to New York City has begun, with substantial progress already made.  As of this moment Ceres is docked in Whitehall, NY, and fully loaded with the bounty of the north and ready to enter the canal system. Over the past five days a mind-blowing variety of agricultural products, a true cornucopia of the north country, was rallied both to my farm in Ferrisburgh and to the colonial-era shipping warehouses of Chipman Point Marina.  Our friend Elizabeth Frank has earned "Benefactor of Ceres" status by connecting us with her friend Pat Ullom, owner of the marina who is now a benefactor as well!  Up until the middle of last week our plan was to use a fishing access near Champlain Orchards.  That plan seemed acceptable enough.  No commercial docks were available in the area, at least as far as we knew, and the boat ramp had a small pier and was within a mile of Champlain Orchards and its buildings.  There was enough space in the parking lot for us to get organized, and it was public.  Besides, we have experience docking and loading Ceres in such conditions already so this seemed adequate.  But when an offer was made to connect us with a place with not only everything we needed for the cargo load-in right at hand but with a history of being a hub of such activity going back over 200 years, we dropped the boat ramp idea in a heartbeat.

During the load-in were over half a dozen crew steadily working at loading, sometimes close to a full dozen.  Next time it will go easier, no doubt, experience will teach us a lot.  But the job got done.  Now, Ceres weighs about 7000 lbs empty.  We added 5000 lbs of ballast to make her 12000 lbs.  Now she is loaded to a total displacement of about 36000 lbs, meaning that we have loaded in about 24000 lbs of saleable (sail-able) cargo.  So she's lower in the water now, sitting down on the waterline that seemed so crazy-high when we launched her empty and unballasted.  She's steadier now too, but may prove more challenging to get going, maneuver, and stop than earlier, so Captain Steve is going to be cautious about handling until the new parameters are well understood.

And as it turns out we didn't even know how badly we needed Chipman Point.  First of all, the complexity and artistry required for the load-in I think took us all by surprise.  None of us ever having loaded a cargo vessel with tonnage before, we had to guess at it.  One guy unexpectedly rose to the challenge.  Finn Yarborough, our in-house videographer, decided there were too many video cameras there already and set his own down to take up a clipboard and begin organizing the load.  Finn worked with the rest of the crew until 10 p.m. Sunday night, and was back at it the following morning.  We had planned on loading quickly and leaving for the south on Sunday, but that plan was out the window when we saw the scale and complexity of the load in.

First meeting between Captain Steve and Severine of Greenhorns

Plus, a cold front was pushing in from the South, throwing a rising wind in our face with danger of gusts over 40 mph, heavy rains forecast, and even a tornado warning out there for a little while.  At Chipman Point we were able to remain productive while dodging the showers that preceded the front on Sunday and into Monday morning....we stayed at the dock an extra two nights, one for the loading and a second to wait out the storm.  How we would have fared trying to do all this work and still stay safe while working off the boat ramp and its parking lot, I don't know.  So once again, the Vermont Sail Freight Project has reason to thank people in our waterway community who have stood up and offered us help in the nick of time.  The cumulative effect of these gestures has been that our project has become more beautiful and more meaningful than we ever could have imagined at the outset.  So, let me say it again, to Willowell, to Greenhorns, to the craftspeople of wood, canvas, rope, words, images, and digital code, and to the 37 farmers whose goods now fill our hold, and to the 300 plus individuals who have contributed financially, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Ceres motor-sails south to WhitehallSailing south with the harvest at the close of the year

We're not there yet.  The trip is just beginning, with a lot of work and a lot of challenges in the weeks ahead.  Would it be unbusinesslike to say that I am terrified of screwing it up, having come so far?  There is risk in this, and neither I nor Captain Steve forget this for a second.  We are carrying not just the physical cargo but also a cargo of hopes and dreams, and that's a heavy responsibility.  Now, so far we have been able to address the difficulties that have come up, including some major ones.  But now the ante has been raised.  On the other hand, looking out the window today and at the forecast in the weeks ahead, the weather has broken and we are looking at some fine days just ahead.  We are all also gaining experience and becoming a more effective team as we progress.

There's no turning back.  NYC, Ceres is coming.

 

Ceres motor-sails to Whitehall  Catch your respites when you can

Addendum to BTV: VSFP Short Film by Guy Derry

Ceres' arrival in Burlington last Friday was captured on video in this short film by Guy Derry.  Enjoy! Also, for fans in the vicinity of Mechanicville, Troy, Albany and Hudson, note that this is the last week to place orders with VSFP through our Good Eggs webstand.  Setting up an account will also help us keep you apprised of future voyages and docking in your neighborhood.

BTV

Burling Ton Vermont, I guess must be the logic behind this abbreviation.  Or, given its location with the Green Mountains to the east and the 'Daks across the lake to the west, Between Two Views?  At least, blessedly, it didn't turn out to abbreviate Boatwreck with Three Victims...which is to say that the Vermont Sail Freight Project's first delivery of cargo was a success. We were sailing into some moderate chop on the way up.  Our broad bow would at times smack down into a trough sending up a spume of spray.  Julien and Robin were along for the ride (lifejackets on of course) and would squeal with glee when we made a good splash.  For a flat-bottom boat Ceres seemed to handle pretty well out on the big lake.  When we pounded into the chop you could feel the reverberations along the whole hull.  But Captain Steve seems quite satisfied overall and concedes that for a box barge she did all right...maybe better than all right.   Due to light and adverse winds and getting a late start we motored some of the time but also shook out the rig to sail, as you can see below.

We were met with a brass band at the dock in Burlington.  Well, at least a one-piece brass band!  And the cargo, corn and rye berries for Great Harvest Bakery and organic garlic from Scapegoat Farm for City market, arrived in fine condition to be delivered a short ways up the hill by bicycle.   Special props for Brian Goblick and Patrick Kiley for putting this demonstration delivery together and making it work!

We still have some minor details to see to in these last frantic few days in our home port, but on the whole we are looking ahead to loading in the Big Cargo for the coming journey south, departing October 6th, and are confident that Ceres will do her job well.

Do you live along the route or know someone who does?  Well, you can now order through our online webstand, and I encourage you to do so soon!  It's easy, buying in advance guarantees you first pick of the goods available (no risk yet of selection selling out, but by the time we arrive at your dock, you never know...our goods are selling fast!), and it makes our job easier and more predictable too.  There are around 90 small-farm products from Vermont and the New York North Country to choose from!  We also have our full schedule posted and will be doing our darndest to stick to it, so you know when Ceres will be stopping by.  When you place an order, we'll notify you too, of course.

More soon!  I have to get back to work!

Ceres enters Burlington Harbor Pedal Power Last-Mile Delivery Preparing to dock Arrival with the sun in the west out on the Big Lake IMG_6672

Under way, under sail

Before becoming a full-time farmer, and long before I began this venture in sail cargo I was a carpenter.  I love the process of carpentry.  You start at the bottom and build your way up.  Each layer gets applied over the preceding one.  Something in my right brain also loves nice neat stacks of materials, everything cut precisely and neat and square.  In fact I get so caught up in the process that I usually fail to document it very well.  All this is by way of explanation of why my posts aren't as frequent as they should be.  It is a whirlwind of process here, barely time to catch a breath let alone pick up a camera and muse at the keyboard for a few hours.  But I owe you a chapter because, after all, many of you reading this are part of the process and the story too. So here's where we are.

I am very pleased that VSFP has recruited Captain Steve Schwartz, who has a pedigree of experience with traditional sail on the Hudson River going back to the inspired zaniness of the early days of Pete Seeger's sloops, the Clearwater and the Woody Guthrie.   Steve has been involved with skippering the latter for many years.  So a couple weeks ago we actually got Steve to drive up to Vermont to scope out the project.  At this point we were still bearing down hard as possible to be ready to sail on the 15th.  Well, when Steve arrived and gave his analysis of our state of readiness, reality set in a little.  We were just not ready to take Ceres on an extended voyage.  There were a number of reinforcements and upgrades needing to be made.  None was really a deal-breaker by itself, but cumulatively it represented a lot more time.

So, with the interest in both Ceres and her crew surviving the trip to NY and back again with enough of us all left at the end of it to do the trip many times more, we simply postponed by one month.  The advantages of the additional time greatly outweighed the deterioration of the weather one month closer to the end of the year.  Though we have to consider that too.

In this time that we've had, we have cast 5000 lbs of ballast blocks, rebuilt the rudder with a retractable daggerboard extension to give it more bite and a motor mount for our outboard so that the outboard and the rudder can be wielded in total concert, reinforced the leeboards mounts, improved our hatches and companionways, and much more.  This reprieve also allowed us time behind the scenes too, as Greenhorns staff got to work organizing our docking and event schedule and publishing a lovely 3-fold brochure and launched our retail platform, hosted by Good Eggs.  We are already receiving both wholesale and retail orders, and expect to be carrying a full load!  Check out the amazing variety of northern goods we have on offer.  The spread is a testament both to the quality of the new agriculture taking root in the region and the dedication of our cargo and sales manager Patrick Kiley who put this all together!

When we set out to build Ceres, we never expected her to be the sleekest or the fastest or to win any yacht club ribbons.  But we expected her to work, and to carry forward a message of a sustainable agriculture enhanced by the use of sustainable transport.  It's taken a lot more work and a little more treasure than we had imagined, but we are very close to putting our barge to work.

So here's what to look out for in the next few weeks:

First, we are going to deliver a small cargo shipment from Vergennes to Burlington, delivering grain for Great Harvest Bakery on Pine Street and garlic for City Market, sometime next week (date to be announced tomorrow).  Immediately following this we will return to the south of the lake to load in cargo for the Hudson and NYC.  As we get closer to time we are going to be nailing down the details for some fun dockside events in Troy, Hudson, Beacon, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and in collaboration with New Amsterdam Farmers' Market.  By November, our work will be done for the year, and we'll be heading home, both Ceres and her crew, for some much-needed time off duty.

Ceres' biggest fan is possibly my 6-year old son Robin.  Robin's eight-year old brother Julien could take the barge or leave it--it doesn't compete with legos and the ipad.  But for Robin it does.  Often, a propos of nothing, Robin will blurt out, "Dad, that sailing barge you built is the best thing EVER!"  Robin wants so incredibly badly to come along for the entire voyage down with cargo and back again.  We'll see what we can do for the little guy, balancing concerns of school, safety, and so on.  Robin is sensing the adults' reluctance, and is pre-emptively arguing that he can be useful.  "I know how to steer it!  I can do that job." (because I let him man the tiller once for two minutes in very calm conditions).  The idea of Robin up on deck in a driving late October rain manning the tiller does not sell my wife on the idea of him going.  And here's the thing.  Robin would totally do his best to do the job, whether it was the tiller or anything else.

Robin is already fantisizing aloud about how when he's bigger he's going to build a sailing barge "ten times bigger" and it's going to be called "Super Ceres"  I guess the fool apple doesn't fall far from the foolishness tree.

Speaking of Robin, he messed with all the settings on my camera, which is why the following photos all have maximum brightness, warmth, and vividness.  But I hope you enjoy them anyway, our first time out on the lake with the mainsail flowing.looking aft and south off Kingsland bay Looking forward and north, off Kingsland Bay out on the lake, under sail, just out of Otter Creek the furled main

Setting Sails

 

Thoreau's Journal: 22-Aug-1858

I have spliced my old sail to a new one, and now go out and try it in a sail to Baker Farm. It is a “square sail” some five feet by six. I like it much. It pulls like an ox, and makes me think there’s more wind abroad than there is. The yard goes about with a pleasant force, almost enough, I would fain imagine, to knock me overboard. How sturdily it pulls, shooting us along, catching more wind than I knew to be wandering in this river valley. It suggests a new power in the sail, like a Grecian god. I can even worship it, after a heathen fashion. And then, how it becomes my boat and the river,—a simple homely square sail, all for use not show, so low and broad! Ajacean. The boat is like a plow drawn by a winged bull.

 

There is much to report since my last post here three weeks ago.  Since our first spaghetti dinner on Ceres we have completed nearly all the rigging and put Ceres through some baby steps in protected bays and out on the open lake.  All the while there is feverish work going on behind the scenes as Colin builds new web architecture on www.vermontsailfreightproject.com and Patrick builds our network of suppliers and clients.  I am amazed by the array of fantastic farm goods we have brought together.  And in the end it is the job Ceres will do -- the work of bringing these goods to market -- and not Ceres herself that we are really all about.

But, that being said, let's just go ahead and focus on Ceres herself just because I can't completely stop myself.  Please understand that everything about this sailing barge, from the rig, to the hull shape, to the overall dimensions and scantlings was designed to make her a practical tool for the job at hand.  We expected her to be utilitarian.  And while we didn't go out of our way to make her ugly, we never expected to pick up any yacht beauty contest awards.  To paraphrase Red Green, if we couldn't find Ceres handsome, at least we could find her handy.

So it is with some sense of surprise that I can now report that Ceres is, at least to me and a few of my friends, elegant and gracious beyond anything I could have imagined when drawing lines on Sketch-up some six months or so ago.  This is thanks to the passion and the sacrifice of our amazing volunteers, Matthew Wright, Jordan Finkelstein, Carrie Glessner, Will Young, and Brian Goblik and many others.  All of these talents pooled together, and what a thing we have accomplished!

Just speaking frankly and personally, the sight of Ceres gladdens the heart, in a way I suppose I hadn't anticipated, and I think the other participants in this project feel the same way.  Much like when the local community gathered here on the farm to roll the barge over, we maybe doubted our combined strength, but stuck with the task, and in the end we all surprised ourselves with what we could do.  Will any of this sentimentality stop us from putting Ceres to rough service and wearing her out in the line of duty?  I very much doubt it.  Ten, maybe fifteen years and we'll decommission Ceres and use whatever parts we can salvage to build the next boat.

Of course, this is just the beginning.  We are entering the last few weeks of preparation for our trip.  We are working towards finalizing several key partnerships, not the least of which is the bringing on board of our captain.  No, it won't be me, and trust me, that's a good thing.  As with the building, there's no reason not to bring as much talent, passion, and experience to the project as we can, and there are some people who are exponentially more qualified than I am to guide a loaded sailing barge down the river to New York City.  I look forward to announcing that and more soon.  We still have plenty of challenges ahead, of that I am totally certain.

Faithful readers, please accept my apology for the long wait for this post.  I will try to come up for air more often in the future!

First Dinner on Board

Another week goes by, and more milestones to report.  Well, it's true that the first meal cooked and eaten on board is a little bit of a big deal, especially to two boys who have barely spent any time on boats, but also we have just been handed our Coast Guard Documentation with the Coastwise Trading Endorsement.  It feels great to have this in hand.  While we of course had reason to expect that our vessel and its mission would receive documentation, in working with the federal government and homeland security there are no guarantees, and no way to know for sure how long things will take.  We had to go back and forth with the USCG Vessel Documentation Center a few times to iron out details, but they were very helpful and cordial throughout, and now Ceres is a flagged vessel of the United States merchant fleet.  Imagine that!  A few short months ago she was just a stack of sheets of plywood! Even as work continues on getting Ceres ready to sail cargo, even more is being done behind the scenes to roll out our commercial model.  Patrick Kiley is building up our network of producers and Colin Gray is working with the crew at yourfarmstand.com to transfer a version of their grocery ordering model to our website.  We hope to have the model up and running in less than two weeks!  Also, we have figured out how to use a tablet to upload GPS positioning through marinetraffic.com, which will allow people viewing our website to see the exact location of Ceres at all times.  So that's coming up too.  Also we are building up the schedule of proposed docking stops and activities on our first voyage to New York City, which involves building a lot of alliances with towns and cities on the Hudson and working with State and NYC authorities.  And on top of all that we are also putting up hay on the farm, which is plenty exhausting all by itself.

Still, there are moments of reprieve.  Here are some lovely summer eve photos of our first meal aboard Ceres.  Erica, Julien, and Robin came out to Ceres where she lies at anchor in Kingsland Bay.  We cooked up tortellini, spaghetti with marinara, fish and crab cakes, and baked salmon.  Ceres has a three-burner propane stove that we scavenged from a friend's camper.  Works great!

Robin in particular fell in love with the boat and didn't want to go ashore.  "Is there a bathtub on the boat?  Can I have my bath here?  Can I sleep in one of those beds?"  I guess we've come a long way from his more skeptical comment, "Looks more like a big box on wheels than a boat."  Now it's definitely a boat, who could doubt it?