A vintage sailboat ferries the Hudson’s grocery store in Brooklyn
Captain Sam Merrett
Photo: Victor Llorente
In this golden age of online grocery shopping, you can have bee pollen shipped overnight and have monthly boxes of pineapple linzer cookies dropped off at your doorstep. But now New Yorkers have another way to savor raw honey, probiotic hot sauce, and other coveted grocery items: via the The Apollonia schooner, a 64-foot sailboat, built in 1946, with a steel hull, puffy white sails and an adorable boat dog named Hoku.
The retro sailboat arrived from Hudson, New York, to stop at the South Street Seaport and the Red Hook industrial waterfront last weekend after six days of sailing downstream, making deliveries statewide . Relinquishing engine power to travel by sail alone, the crew of four zigzagged across the narrow river to catch the wind while avoiding mud flats, commercial barges and fishing boats in search of bass. striped.
the ApolloniaThe company’s primary goal is to deliver 12,000 pounds of Hudson Valley Malt and Stone House Grain to five brewers and distillers along the river, creating a low carbon supply chain. But the ship’s hold is also filled with goods from upstate food companies like Poor Devil Pepper Company and Atina Foods to bring them to Beacon, Kingston, Ossining, Brooklyn and Manhattan; Meanwhile, Stone Street Coffee and Honey’s beverage selections make the return trip to the upstate. It’s a gamble to draw New Yorkers to the waterfront to spark modern interest in a very old form of carbon-neutral transport: sail freight.
“We’re trying to build a very visible green supply chain, and as far as I know, there’s no better way to start the dialogue than to show up in a schooner by the water with a pile of cargo on board and tell the story where it came from, ”says Captain Sam Merrett.
Photo: Victor Llorente
Merrett grew up in the Hudson Valley. In addition to running a company that modifies diesel engines to run on used vegetable oil, he is a long-time member of the Hudson Sloop Club, a public co-op that promotes sailing and educational programs the along the mighty river. His enthusiasm for revitalizing rivers – even after four hours of sleep after a night of uncooperative wind – is contagious.
Merrett and Ben Azinga, the ApolloniaThe Craigslist business owner bought the big schooner off Craigslist in 2014. Built in 1946, the boat was little more than a hull and engine, but the bones were there, and it looked indestructible. Merrett and Azinga suspected he had the potential to successfully navigate the often unpredictable waters of the Hudson.
Tianna Kennedy, farmer-owner of Star Route Farm in Charlotteville, New York, and owner of the 607 CSA collaboration, has joined to manage fundraising and logistics. She managed the logistics for the launch of the Vermont Sail Freight Project in 2013, a formative example of a growing global freight-sail movement. Earlier this month, Sail’s Grain delivered 15,000 bottles of organic French wine and chocolate bars to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Marina after a 27-day trip across the Atlantic. He plans to come back twice a year.
Modernizing existing transportation systems for sustainability starts with a lot of planning. An inboard motor is required to dock at the docks, but use is minimal. (At the end of last year’s season, the ApolloniaThe 35-gallon capacity tank still contained diesel.) To close the metaphorical “last mile” between the dock and the breweries, the crew used a Tern electric bike and Carla Cargo trailer from Revolution Rickshaws. Combined, she can carry up to 400 pounds at a time, a feat that has come in handy when the ship couldn’t find beacon berth space. Unperturbed, they stopped across the river in Newburgh and cycled 2,500 pounds of grain across the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge and down Main Street to Hudson Valley Brewing on journeys.
And then there is the issue of maintaining a schedule without running an engine. One windless night, the crew were forced to drop anchor and wait for the tides to change and carry the schooner downstream. In the end, they made it to New York again 18 hours early.
Unsurprisingly, the service comes at a small premium. Participating breweries and distilleries pay around $ 200 to $ 300 more per delivery compared to using trucks – but this is an opportunity to stand out among socially conscious consumers in a market where the words “locally grown” and “sustainable” appear frequently on alcohol labels.
“This is the missing link in sustainably produced food and drink: however sustainably grown it is, if it were to be shipped to you by a diesel truck, there is a large part of it. the story that could be improved, ”says Azinga.
The dream of freight transportation is well chosen for the time of the increased revitalization of New York’s waterfront. The heavily subsidized New York ferry system, which operates five routes and seasonal weekend service to Governors Island, is expected to launch two new routes this year: St. George and Coney Island. And the newcomer to the water’s edge, Little Island Park, now juts out into the Hudson atop concrete “tulip” stilts.
So it goes that the ApolloniaThe unloading at the Reti Center dock was greeted with a small dose of pomp and circumstance. An acoustic jam session nestled in front of the mini quay store. Families arrived by bike to check out the boat, then stayed to help transport the 50-pound bags of grain to the gangway. And then there were Bailey and Striker, two Belgian horses from Connecticut’s Triple T family farms pulling a cart loaded with grain through the streets of Gowanus as the cargo bike led the way.
the Apollonia plans to repeat the route every four to six weeks from April to October, possibly longer if weather permits. Her team is working on getting a liquor license to be able to pour drinks made from ingredients carried on board, and she dreams of being able to host larger riverside markets like those in Thailand and Venice.
“Historically, it was a huge moment when a ship arrived and everyone came down to the river to see what was on board,” says Azinga. “We would love to come back, and every community up and down the Hudson is reinvesting in their waterfront right now. I think people realize that when you turn a riverside into a functional space, it’s beautiful and people want to spend time there. For now, those are all preorders, which will open soon for the next run.
“For me, it’s important to model the small-scale regional idea like a pilot,” Kennedy says. “We hope to be able to show that there are effective alternatives to the current system. Things don’t necessarily have to be dropped off at your doorstep with a drone.