Sailboat brings food down Hudson the old fashioned way

| 01 Nov 2013 | 02:58

We admit that we had our doubts that Ceres, a freight ship we wrote about as it was under construction, would ever actually arrive upon our shores laden with shelf-stable produce from Vermont, en route to New York City. Call us cynics, but so many great ideas never quite get funded, or sink mid-river.

Now we are hearing Darth Vader’s voice reprehending us: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

We just checked up on the progress of the Vermont Sail Freight Project, and got a little click-happy when we realized that we could at this very moment order produce from God’s country (that’s Vermont) like organic cornmeal, pickled beets, heirloom beans, and even wild harvested Maine seaweed, and our produce would set sail in just two days from Burlington and arrive at Newburgh – or any of nine Hudson Valley drop-off points along the Hudson from Mechanicville to Nyack – within a few weeks.

It was early October and the Ceres had just completed her maiden voyage, a choppy trip across Lake Champlain. “They had to use the motor a lot, which was disappointing,” said Erica Andrus, the wife of Erik Andrus, founder of the Vermont Sail Freight Project. (We couldn’t catch Erik because he was preparing for the ship’s imminent departure down the Hudson.) But it didn’t sink, and they did unfurl the sail for at least part of the journey. Upon Ceres’ arrival in Burlington, which was filmed for the benefit of doubters like yours truly, two guys on bicycles, one wearing an old-fashioned hat, vest and mustache, the other in a bicycle helmet and orange vest, pedaled away towing corn and rye berries for Great Harvest Bakery and organic garlic from Scapegoat Farm for City Market, a cooperative grocery store.

The Andrus’ two kids were along for the trip across the lake, a signal of the Andrus’ confidence in the boat’s seaworthiness. “Oh, definitely,” said Erica. “I’ve been on and off the boat while they were working on it. I have a lot of faith in the captain of the boat. He’s very experienced. But,” she added, “you know, they’re not going to New York.”

That’s okay with the kids, she said. “By the time they got to Burlington the older one was like, ‘Okay I’m bored, where’s my iPad.’”

Becca Tucker