Our ‘Sail Cargo Supper’ this month was the first event with our new partner, the Sail Cargo Alliance. Gareth Maeer from Raybel Charter & Sail Cargo Alliance writes about the evening, some of the inspirational vessels, and this exciting trade alliance.
On 16 th August we hosted an evening meal of olive oil starters, summer roasted vegetables, chocolate cake, fig leaf ice cream and rum truffles. To drink - mojitos and natural Monk’s wine. All this produce was either sourced locally, often from the Skip Garden itself, or – if not – had been sail freighted. Olives, olive oil, and wine were from Portugal, sea salt from the south-west of France, rum from the Azores, coffee from Honduras and chocolate from the Dominican Republic.
These products had all reached London on sailing ships, meaning they were
emissions free and ‘as good as local’ in terms of their transport impacts. They had come to our shores under the banner of the Sail Cargo Alliance, a collaboration of businesses, traders, merchants and producers, all with a shared vision for a healthy global, transport culture, involving the simple power and age-old technology of wind and sail.
Cargos are carried on historic sailing ships like the Tres Hombres, a 32 metre brigantine built by three Dutch friends; the Nordlys, one of the oldest cargo ships in the world, built in 1873 on the Isle of Wight; and the German-run Avontuur, a 1905 schooner that plies a trade across the Atlantic. Several other ships are coming on board – including the Raybel, a 1920 Thames Sailing Barge that is being restored so the sail cargo journey can be taken right into central London.
Ships transport more than stuff – they move ideas as well. And sail cargo is a
symbolic movement. It’s a symbol of the transformation we need, not just in how products are moved, but in what products we move - how much we move as well as how. It’s a movement that links buyers and sellers, producers and consumers, communities, nations and continents. There’s the chance here to pioneer a supply chain on a human scale – ‘slow cargo’ – re-connecting people to products and to the
movement of goods at a pace dictated by nature – an antidote to the 'just in time' , 'always available'culture of modern consumption.
‘Eat local, shop local, buy local’ are all great mottos for guiding us in how to live well whilst treading lightly on the earth. But they can lock us into some negative traits, in our relations to other people and to the planet. Trade opens us to the lives of other people, and can connect us through exchange – what do we have that you need, what can we bring home that you have made? Some of the staples of the new sail- freight trade – olive oil, wine – are the same as sea-traded in Roman times: simple essentials of a good life, where trade is necessary as local production isn’t possible.
Once the main trading routes in Europe were not overland but across the seas. Ports in England would have been linked with those in Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, in networks that brought people from across ‘borders’ into more contact with each other than they would often have shared with folk from the interiors of their own nations.
We think wind borne trade is one way of keeping us open to the world, whilst respecting nature – so a sustainable life doesn’t have to be insular or closed off . That’s especially important at a moment when many want to slam the doors to ‘outsiders’.
Learn more at
(all have twitter, facebook, instagram as well)
You can buy sail freighted products in London from Raybel Charters, and we will soon be launching crowd funding and community share issues for the restoration project. And if you’re feeling more adventurous, both Avontuur and Tres Hombres are still advertising places for sail crews they need for their next Atlantic crossings.