Welcome to Sail Freighter Fridays! This article is part of a series linked to our new exhibit: "A New Age Of Sail: The History And Future Of Sail Freight In The Hudson Valley," and tells the stories of sailing cargo ships both modern and historical, on the Hudson River and around the world. Anyone interested in how to support Sail Freight should also check out the Conference in November, and the International Windship Association's Decade of Wind Propulsion.
Returning to the seemingly topical and relevant subject of Oil Crisis Era sail freight revivals, we have one from Long Island Sound which was much more successful than the John F Leavitt. The Phoenix was a motor-sailer with a steel hull, and there isn't a huge amount of information on her, unfortunately, but she operated a ferry service in Long Island Sound under sail for a few years at least. She required a crew of only two, and started operations in 1982. She could carry about 20 tons, plus passengers.
The Phoenix is also listed in this bibliography of wind propulsion projects from 1980 as under construction in Captain Greg Brazier's back yard: A 70 foot cargo schooner for trade on the Long Island Sound. From the other aggregate sources, it appears she was about 50 gross tons and also faced resistance from residents near a former working dock which had been converted to leisure use.
The Phoenix operated until at least 1984, when journalism on the project seems to disappear. The records are not clear as to what happened to the ship, but she may have converted to educational use. It seems in 1983 the ship wasn't making a profit on cargo alone between Long Island and Connecticut. What ultimately happened is unclear, but in 1985 the price of fuel dropped precipitously, and likely doomed the project as it did many others. With modern concerns about both oil supply and climate change, the 3-hour sailing ferry route may be worth reconsidering for a new generation of Sail Freighter.
Steven Woods is the Solaris and Education coordinator at HRMM. He earned his Master's degree in Resilient and Sustainable Communities at Prescott College, and wrote his thesis on the revival of Sail Freight for supplying the New York Metro Area's food needs. Steven has worked in Museums for over 20 years.
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