Next Project — Dirigible!

by Vermont Rice

The Vermont Airship Freight Project!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I am so proud of our crew!

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