Sailboats Ship Freight to Manhattan for First Time in 60 Years

Posted: November 5, 2013  |  By: Jackie Snow [National Geographic]

This past weekend, a flat-bottomed, two-mast sailboat 30 feet (9 meters) long came down the Hudson River at a brisk six-knot clip, hugging the Manhattan coast to avoid bigger boats. Commuter ferries, barges, tour boats, and pleasure vessels can always be found in the water surrounding New York City—which is, after all, an island at the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean. Ships under sail power are a regular sighting here too. But this particular sailboat, the Ceres, is special.

The Vermont Sail Freight Project built the boat this summer with a goal: to go back in time. With 12 tons of food from 30 Vermont farms in its holds, the Ceres became the first sailboat since the 1950s to land in New York City with goods. The cargo was destined for the New Amsterdam Market, restaurants, and customers who had placed orders online.

"Originally, I thought of the project as a kind of a publicity stunt," said Erik Andrus, a farmer and entrepreneur who heads the Vermont Sail Freight Project. But now, after a positive response to the project, Andrus thinks there’s real business potential in sailing produce in the Northeast again.

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