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Posted 15 October 2014 - by Carol Brighton / Updated 20 Oct. with Images in Portsmouth below

The Pride of Baltimore II is part of the fleet participating in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race beginning Thurs. Oct. 16 / Image: US Coast Guard - More info on the race at HamptonRoads.com

On the Horizon: Reviving Sail Transport

The thoroughfares of a bygone era, our waterways were once filled with the sails of vessels plying the coast in trade and transport.  Annually in October, residents and visitors along the Bay stretching from Baltimore to Portsmouth can catch a glimpse of history as sailors commanding a fleet of vessels in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, challenge their crews to outmaneuver other craft to the Virginia finish line.  Celebrating a silver anniversary this year, the not for profit event raises awareness and money for youth education programs led by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  In all, over $160,000 has been raised by participants.

According to Will King, Executive Director of the Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation, the time to beat was set by the Schooner Virginia in 2007.  Recorded at 11 hours, 18 minutes and 53 seconds for the 127-mile journey, crews this year have a lofty goal.  Unfortunately, like several other sail based education programs, operation costs for the Virginia exceed income, and the schooner is now closed for business. While a July press release from the foundation indicates that the vessel will be put up for sale, King reports that it “has not been listed” with an agent.

As sailors join this week’s 25th race down the bay while the Schooner Virginia sits in port, it seems pertinent to share some good news highlighted below about noteworthy sailing endeavors. 

The Hermione to Return to Virginia

With an NYC who’s who Gala attended by the likes of Henry Kissinger on October 14, fund raising efforts were kicked off to bring a replica of Hermione to America. Known as Lafayette’s Freedom Frigate, it was the Hermione that carried the Marquis to deliver the game changing news of France’s participation in the American Revolution.  With their assistance, a naval blockade led to the surrender of Cornwallis in Virginia.  Fittingly, the first scheduled stop of the authentically reconstructed warship will be Yorktown, VA. From 4-7 June 2015. Watch the Sept. 6 launch.

Tres_hombresThe Tres Hombres crosses the Atlantic trading fossil free / Image: © courtesy Fairtransport BV Shipping

A Whaler Repurposed

Another significant vessel returned to service over the summer.  The last wooden whaler and oldest commercial ship still afloat, the Charles W. Morgan based at the Mystic Seaport, toured the Northeast coast. Still in search of whales, the ship now supports conservation instead of capture. Follow the link to check out July whale watching on Stellwagen Bank.

Carbon Free Cargo by Sail

Celebrating history has done a lot to keep sail transport alive, but considering the economic and environmental impact of fossil propelled trade, a new movement to transport freight by sail, could serve to rescue some vessel owners from financial woes.  On October 10th, the Tres Hombres departed from the Netherlands on a trade route that calls on numerous European and Atlantic seaports.  From spirits to coffee, chocolate and more, the vessel will pick up and deliver goods on a route that will travers the Atlantic this Fall. Opportunities are offered to sail along. Long and short term tours can now be booked on the Fairtransport website. The current voyage can also be followed online via facebook.

While still a fledgling enterprise, the idea of trading goods locally and in a sustainable manner may likewise drive sail based transport here in the United States. The Seattle’s Salish Sea Cooperative runs a community supported agriculture (CSA) platform that delivers organic produce and other goods from the Olympic Peninsula direct to downtown Seattle customers via waterways.  Their carbonless mode of transport is likewise traffic free.  A similar venture floated on the East Coast delivered goods over the summer from verdant Vermont to the heart of Manhatten. Watch the National Geographic video on youtube below that follows the Vermont Sail Freight Project to the City. As Erik Andrus, the founder of the freight project points out, 9 out of 10 people in the Northeast live within close proximity to navigable water creating a unique and sustainable opportunity for sail transport.




Read more about clean and sail assisted transport.

Images of Portsmouth, VA - 18 October 2014

Click here to see the official results of the 25th annual Great Chesapeake Schooner Race














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