A conversation with Officer Ed Green of the Burlington, Vermont Coast Guard station has given me great hope that our project can proceed towards a 2013 launch as planned. Thanks to Kathy Pelish at the Salish Sea Trading Company (our West Coast philosophical cousin) to helping facilitate this dialog. While maritime regulations are not really written with small trading sailboats in mind, apparently they can be brought about and operated within the law for missions such as ours.
Officer Green informed me that a sail powered boat of under 15 tons would not be subject to inspections or a demanding design review process. This is really important for a volunteer-driven low-budget startup venture like ours. Maybe eventually we will be able to work within more demanding parameters, and if we ever think of taking on paying passengers in addition to cargo certainly more regulations would come into play. But for a small volume of non-dangerous cargo like cabbages and grain, there are no requirements for inspection.
However we would obtain a Coastwise Trading Endorsement which would allow us to do the kind of small time trading at waterside that the project envisions. It is very encouraging to learn that the Coast Guard is open to our project and that there is still a place in our country’s maritime laws for a little sailboat with big ideas.