Ceres has arrived in NYC

by Vermont Rice

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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