What Ship is That?

by Vermont Rice

Welcome to the Vermont Sail Freight Project blog.  This is a space where you can read about a future small-scale commercial sailing outfit which will hit the water, one way or another, next year.  I’ll be posting about developments in our design for our low-cost commercial cargo sailboat and the development of our mission to deliver Vermont farm and forest products produced near the shores of Lake Champlain to markets on the lower Hudson.

As a kid I was always fascinated by old black and white photos from the days of sail and railroad building.  Maybe you can imagine a photo with a bunch of guys with big mustaches and heavy stares standing for a long-exposure photo beside some enormous pile of logs, or bales of cargo, or a huge timber railroad trestle.  All that work having been accomplished with backs, animal power, and hand tools.  I think on some level most people tend to look at these pictures and assume that this kind of physical labor belongs solely to the past, that whatever those guys in the photos were able to do, it doesn’t apply to us.  Technology has replaced them, and thank God for that.

But as the reality of a planet with limits begins to present itself in this new century, the future of a manual-labor-free existence seems less and less certain.  To Americans, maybe this is more a more threatening notion than it is other places.  For instance, I stayed for a while with the parents of a friend of mine in a remote Moroccan village, where the simple fact of labor has never been absent.  I think we will find that many of the elaborate solutions to keep the cheap-energy economy going, such as fracking, hydrogen cells and smart-grid techonology will be found wanting, sooner or later, and that time-proven means of providing for essential human needs will ultimately regain some of the traction they’ve lost in recent times.

That’s the inspiration behind my farming practices, and it carries over to the Sail Freight Project.  Ultimately I believe in the potential of the Northeast and its people to rise to the occasion, and to tend to our soil, mountains, and water, and while making good use of them.  The Sail Freight Project aims to provide a service while setting an example: some of the most effective adaptations to an energy-constrained future are simple ones,and ones that we may have forgotten we are capable of.