Under way, under sail

by Vermont Rice

Before becoming a full-time farmer, and long before I began this venture in sail cargo I was a carpenter.  I love the process of carpentry.  You start at the bottom and build your way up.  Each layer gets applied over the preceding one.  Something in my right brain also loves nice neat stacks of materials, everything cut precisely and neat and square.  In fact I get so caught up in the process that I usually fail to document it very well.  All this is by way of explanation of why my posts aren’t as frequent as they should be.  It is a whirlwind of process here, barely time to catch a breath let alone pick up a camera and muse at the keyboard for a few hours.  But I owe you a chapter because, after all, many of you reading this are part of the process and the story too.

So here’s where we are.

I am very pleased that VSFP has recruited Captain Steve Schwartz, who has a pedigree of experience with traditional sail on the Hudson River going back to the inspired zaniness of the early days of Pete Seeger’s sloops, the Clearwater and the Woody Guthrie.   Steve has been involved with skippering the latter for many years.  So a couple weeks ago we actually got Steve to drive up to Vermont to scope out the project.  At this point we were still bearing down hard as possible to be ready to sail on the 15th.  Well, when Steve arrived and gave his analysis of our state of readiness, reality set in a little.  We were just not ready to take Ceres on an extended voyage.  There were a number of reinforcements and upgrades needing to be made.  None was really a deal-breaker by itself, but cumulatively it represented a lot more time.

So, with the interest in both Ceres and her crew surviving the trip to NY and back again with enough of us all left at the end of it to do the trip many times more, we simply postponed by one month.  The advantages of the additional time greatly outweighed the deterioration of the weather one month closer to the end of the year.  Though we have to consider that too.

In this time that we’ve had, we have cast 5000 lbs of ballast blocks, rebuilt the rudder with a retractable daggerboard extension to give it more bite and a motor mount for our outboard so that the outboard and the rudder can be wielded in total concert, reinforced the leeboards mounts, improved our hatches and companionways, and much more.  This reprieve also allowed us time behind the scenes too, as Greenhorns staff got to work organizing our docking and event schedule and publishing a lovely 3-fold brochure and launched our retail platform, hosted by Good Eggs.  We are already receiving both wholesale and retail orders, and expect to be carrying a full load!  Check out the amazing variety of northern goods we have on offer.  The spread is a testament both to the quality of the new agriculture taking root in the region and the dedication of our cargo and sales manager Patrick Kiley who put this all together!

When we set out to build Ceres, we never expected her to be the sleekest or the fastest or to win any yacht club ribbons.  But we expected her to work, and to carry forward a message of a sustainable agriculture enhanced by the use of sustainable transport.  It’s taken a lot more work and a little more treasure than we had imagined, but we are very close to putting our barge to work.

So here’s what to look out for in the next few weeks:

First, we are going to deliver a small cargo shipment from Vergennes to Burlington, delivering grain for Great Harvest Bakery on Pine Street and garlic for City Market, sometime next week (date to be announced tomorrow).  Immediately following this we will return to the south of the lake to load in cargo for the Hudson and NYC.  As we get closer to time we are going to be nailing down the details for some fun dockside events in Troy, Hudson, Beacon, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and in collaboration with New Amsterdam Farmers’ Market.  By November, our work will be done for the year, and we’ll be heading home, both Ceres and her crew, for some much-needed time off duty.

Ceres’ biggest fan is possibly my 6-year old son Robin.  Robin’s eight-year old brother Julien could take the barge or leave it–it doesn’t compete with legos and the ipad.  But for Robin it does.  Often, a propos of nothing, Robin will blurt out, “Dad, that sailing barge you built is the best thing EVER!”  Robin wants so incredibly badly to come along for the entire voyage down with cargo and back again.  We’ll see what we can do for the little guy, balancing concerns of school, safety, and so on.  Robin is sensing the adults’ reluctance, and is pre-emptively arguing that he can be useful.  “I know how to steer it!  I can do that job.” (because I let him man the tiller once for two minutes in very calm conditions).  The idea of Robin up on deck in a driving late October rain manning the tiller does not sell my wife on the idea of him going.  And here’s the thing.  Robin would totally do his best to do the job, whether it was the tiller or anything else.

Robin is already fantisizing aloud about how when he’s bigger he’s going to build a sailing barge “ten times bigger” and it’s going to be called “Super Ceres”  I guess the fool apple doesn’t fall far from the foolishness tree.

Speaking of Robin, he messed with all the settings on my camera, which is why the following photos all have maximum brightness, warmth, and vividness.  But I hope you enjoy them anyway, our first time out on the lake with the mainsail flowing.looking aft and south off Kingsland bay Looking forward and north, off Kingsland Bay out on the lake, under sail, just out of Otter Creek the furled main