Our trade route runs about 300 miles from Ferrisburgh, Vermont to Brooklyn, New York, much as in the heady days after the 1825 opening of the Champlain Canal. Many of our producers are near Ferrisburgh and will be putting on cargo there. Champlain Orchards, Golden Russet Farm, south along the lake. Also we plan to take on some co-op and Essex farm. Once fully laden we'll sail south to the Champlain Canal at Fair Haven.
It's 22 miles of canal passage from Fair Haven through Whitehall to the Hudson River at Fort Edward. We plan on making this passage by poling, sculling with a yuloh (Chinese sculling oar), or as a last resort, under motor. There are nine locks, raising us in elevation a little and dropping us back down again even more as we approach the Hudson. After entering the Hudson, there's one more canal at Hudson Falls, because of, well, the need to go around and not over those Hudson Falls.
Once entered the Hudson we are open to trade at ports of call along the way. We are willing to land most anywhere with a dock or even a just beach! But expect us to be calling at Mechanicsville landing, Troy, Albany, Hudson, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, and Manhattan at the very least. Allowing for docking times we expect the trip to take about 10 days, depending greatly on wind conditions.
Flat-bottomed barges such as this one once moved substantial tonnages around the region, powered by wind, tide, and muscle. Once a common sight and a defining feature of Early American life, such working craft have now essentially vanished. But with growing recognition of the mounting costs of a highway-based lifestyle, we think they're poised for a comeback!
PHILOSOPHY: Bringing our expansive and expensive lifestyles back to a human scale can seem a monumental task. One asset that can help us accomplish this in the Northeast is our water. Not by chance, the largest population centers in the Champlain-Hudson region are along water trading routes. Using lakes, rivers and our historic canal system, goods can be transported from Montreal to New York to Buffalo and many points between with a very low carbon footprint per ton-mile. Flat-bottom barges, moved by tide, muscle, or sail once moved great tonnages around the region before rail and highways rendered this way of life obsolete.
Now we are coming to realize that these highways are at the crux of our most pressing problems, that they erode our sense of community even as they warm the planet. Rail is not much of an alternative, being consolidated beyond much hope of aiding community-scale trading initiatives. The old spur rail lines are grown up to forest or turned to bike paths, and rail freight is almost entirely hub-to-hub. But the water is still there, its use open to all. So, why do non-perishable food products need to move down the interstate at 75 miles an hour? Why should small-scale farmers need to drive through the night to arrive at NYC farmers' markets ahead of the early A.M. traffic?
The Vermont Sail Freight Project invites you to look to the water in a new way, not as a barrier to be driven around, bridged-over or tunneled under, but as a conduit of life and trade. In addition, our project will give the group of spirited Champlain Valley producers, whose cargo we'll carry, a highly visible combined presence in a busy marketplace where it might be difficult for each of us to stand out on our own. Together we're the Champlain Valley, ready to sail our goods down the Hudson, just as we did long ago.