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.
The West Country Ketch Hobah was an English vessel built in 1879, and is typical of her class: Ketch rigged, relatively small at around 80 feet and 60 Net Register Tons, and built with a wide flat bottom, she was designed for use in the South of England. She served as late as 1945, moving coal, general cargo, manure, and stone.
The ketch's wide, flat bottom allowed for loading and unloading from beaches where no developed port was available, a common practice with small vessels. The photo above shows this process in action, with the Ketch tied up to the stake on the left, the tide was allowed to recede, while the ship settles into the sand and stays stable while discharging cargo. When high tide returns, the lines can be cast and the ship sails away unharmed.
While very typical of her class, the Hobah's career is especially long, spanning 66 years. She was engaged on trade routes which were fully developed by the 17th century, and active through the early 20th. Those routes have been mapped by Oliver Dunn and a team of historians, and span the entirety of the British coast. Like many other late sail freighters, she carried mostly bulk cargos around areas with underdeveloped land transportation networks before the introduction of fossil-fueled trucks, and was quite successful.
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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This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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