The Vermont Sail Freight Project

A Sailing Cargo Initiative Connecting the Farms and Forests of Vermont with the Lower Hudson Valley

Month: March, 2013

Brave Tars

I have a facsimile of an old English broadsheet used to recruit for the Royal Navy, calling to “Brave Tars of Old England, all you who love King and Country (and hate the French) Now is the Time to Shew your Love.” We here at the Vermont Sail Freight Project, the would-be tars of the 21st century Champlain-Hudson agrarian merchant marine say to you, dear readers, if you support the ideals behind this project as I have been laying them out on this blog for this past year, now is the time to Shew your Love.” Lend a hand if you can. If you can’t there’s this:

The video is neat (executed by Finn Yarborough) and of course you can check out the rest of the campaign too. Please pass along to whoever you know who takes an interest in sustainable transport, NYC farmers markets, creativity on the water, and regional resiliency. Truth be told, if this campaign falters I will still find a way to make Vermont Sail Freight a reality–I am not discouraged very easily–but it will be harder. And slower. And more personally costly. But I’m confident we’ll succeed, and will therefore continue to nail the benchmarks in the timeline of this project right up to the point of sailing our load of cargo under the G.W. bridge this September.

Here at the farm we are anticipating success. Winter is the time for pondering, considering, drawing inward, but winter is ending. Spring is coming, and spring is a time for action, for investing the reserves of energy we’ve built up over the winter to make this season the best it can be. In short our sailing barge is coming together swiftly, and coming together well.


Here you can see the frames for the stern section. These will help define the bend in the plywood, reinforce joints and stiffen the deck. I assembled both on the shop floor in a few hours, then hung them on the end of the barge, as you can see next. The after ends have to be temporarily supported with some bracing. The rectangular space between the frames in the back will be recognizable as the transom before too long.

Today we had a good crowd at the worksite, with Damien and Dale from Walden as well as Mac and Hannah. Channel 5 news coming to scope out the project, and of course Dante the dog was very much in evidence, wondering why with so many people around there was so little stick-throwing going on.

Also, you can check out the evening news segment at WPTZ news here:


Spring snow, and our new website

With last week’s winter weather the project has been physically stalled but electronically accelerated. We now have a new website,, not quite complete but almost! Please check it out!

I will continue to post project news here on the wordpress blog on an approximately weekly basis. We’ll be back in the boatbuilding shed next week and there will be some fun stuff to document. All the supplies we will need for the next month of work have been laid in, and I expect some swift progress.

Last week before the weather set in nasty I did at least get the bow framed out a little and friend Evan Dale spend a few days helping to clean out and organize the workspace. The woodstove in the shop was humming! Another great bit of news is that our kickstarter campaign was approved to go live, so once we finish a few last-minute edits we’ll be announcing the launch of that campaign. It’s a very important piece of our fundraising strategy.

More soon.

“Looks more like a giant rectangle on wheels than a boat.”

The honesty of five-year-olds.  The title line is Robin’s assessment of the barge in progress.  I will try not to take this as a design critique.  The fact is, that is exactly what it looks like now.

Guest artisan Will Gusakov was around for most of last week helping lay the groundwork for the project.  We cleared space and prepared a special running gear to both support the barge during the work and carry it to launch.  It’s just a heavy hay wagon running gear which we extended to a super-long wheelbase, and then added two I-joists as rails.  These rails provide a great surface on which to assemble the boat.

It wasn’t until Thursday that our unit of 10′ plywood arrived.  Once it was here we were able to really start to sink our teeth into the project.  The following day we laminated the dead-flat center section, which ran the entire length of the 24′ rails.  The curved bow and stern sections will overhang them by 8 feet each.  The dead flat panels are staggered 2 feet on-center and glued into a giant panel with epoxy.

Then on Saturday I removed the clamps and screws that held this lamination together for gluing and added the engineered-lumber chine logs at the sides of the panel.  These tie the whole deadflat structure together.  The floor timbers run between these chine logs, 20″ on-center.  Everything below the waterline is affixed with 3m marine glue.

We’ve deviated in the design a little from orthodox “Triloboat” construction (can such a form be said to have an orthodoxy?  Probably not) considering the duty the barge will perform.  The heavy engineered chine logs and the proliferation of framing members are my twist on Dave Zeiger’s concept and the result of feedback from former Coast Guard and designers of larger composite boats.  We have to consider that our barge may be subject to differential loading (unequal distribution of cargo) in a way that a liveaboard barge hull might not.

Probably by next post the bow and stern should have some form to them that will suggest the final shape. The last of the three photos below is shot from aft looking forward.  The rectangular hole you see in the bulkhead will be an internal passage door between the aft cabin and the cargo compartments.


Barge Builders!

logo and watercolor boat
Materials are arriving on the farm every day and we are getting ready to begin construction of the sailing barge next week.  I will post in more detail once we begin.  I am very uplifted by the many offers of volunteer help coming from the community.  Many hands make light work!

In the above graphic you can see the logo (the circular part) done by my brother-in-law Adam Hurwitz.  It is inspired by the old East India Company logo of which Henry Hudson’s 1609 expedition was a part.  Notice any resemblance?East India Company Seal

Adam put a lot of thought into the font, which has echoes of the printing presses of that age.  I love it, being kind of a 17th century history nut.  Not to compare our sailing venture to Hudson’s, of course, but I guess you could say that if a sailing vessel as unweildy as Hudson’s Halfmoon can ascend the Hudson river then we ought to be able to manage it somehow.

Exciting times ahead for VSFP in the next several weeks.  Please check in regularly as I will be sure to post updates to construction progress weekly.