What Would it Take?

by Vermont Rice

Since I’ve been asked this question a few times,” what would it take to have Vermont Sail Freight springboard into enduring reality?” I will offer my thoughts.  They might surprise you.

Some assume the economic factors, the boat moving too slow and holding too little, doom the operation.  Not really the case.  We have still not launched the model that makes full use of the one vessel we have in commission.  Earlier this year, I drew up a plan, based on hard figures from our earlier voyages, to have Ceres land 80 tons of cargo on the dock in Brooklyn over the course of 8 trips beginning in July and going through October.  Each trip would involve a round-trip of two weeks, which entails about five transit days and 9 days docked at the north (Whitehall) and south (Brooklyn) terminals combined.  With the goods we were dealing, this 80 tons, at an average retail price of $3 per pound carried works out to a volume of about a half-million dollars in gross sales annually.  This is a fairly small figure in the world of transport and distribution but is still enough to support the annual costs and personnel required to perform these trips.  If we could cover such costs operating with one vessel, and develop niche markets incrementally, this would pave the way towards larger vessels and longer routes.

But personnel were in the end the limiting factor.  I used up a lot of personal capital launching the venture in 2013 and in attempting to continue it through 2014.  In early 2015 we drew up a plan that, properly financed, would entail fair compensation for key participants.  But a lot of the responsibility in this venture falls upon the vessel’s crew, and who would that be?

If I did not have responsibilities that tie me to a farm for most of the summer, and if I did not have a young family that (usually) likes to have me home every night, then I would sign up right away to live, seasonally at least, on Ceres and put her through her paces.  But I’m not at the right stage of my life to do this, and so far, despite the huge number of fans that have come forward or gotten involved in some way, we haven’t yet met the person or couple who have the right mix of sea-smarts, dedication to the mission, leadership skills and entreprenurial and electronic-media savvy who could be or become the captain-manager of Ceres.  We have had all these traits on the team, but never in any one person.

Currently our mission is on hold, with no plans to revive.  It’s also for sale, as is.  Contact me for details on that.  Maybe Ceres will make a nice liveaboard for someone, if the aft deckhouse was extended forward to meet the forward deckhouse there could be several joined rooms, enough for a big galley, separate dining and living, lots of berths and room for stores.  But the addition of the right partner, or of a maybe of a patron who would help us through the process of finding this partner(because I have to believe that the talented person who would seize upon this as a career opportunity is out there, somewhere) might take VSF off the auction block.  I haven’t lost my love for this work, but I need partners who will roll up their sleeves along with me to take it anywhere meaningful.

Till then, you can find me in the rice paddies, or the bakery!