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Commercial sail – the way it could be

by 29 Oct 2008Transport and climate action0 comments

After thousands of years powered by sail, commercial navigation switched over completely to fossil fuels.

Melvyn Bowen

Master Mariner: Melvyn Bowen will speak on a new age of sail. photographer Unknown

Since then, the revival of commercial sail has proved to be a curiously elusive goal. But the same reason electric cars are making a stampeding comeback—the end of the free lunch that was fossil fuels—could also herald a new dawn of commercial sail.

Master mariner Melvyn Bowen clearly thinks so. At the invitation of Transition Towns, Warkworth, Melvyn is giving a one-hour presentation with audience questions, which will be followed by refreshments and discussion. He summaries his three-part presentation:

  1. The way it used to be—an historic overview
  2. The way it might be—some innovative developments
  3. The way it could be—a pragmatic approach to some practicable ideas.

In a fruitless attempt to get an update on the Marlborough winegrower who declared his intention to be the first to sail wine from Aotearoa to Europe, turned up numerous references to Compagnie de Transport Maritime a la Voile. The company is targeting the transportation of wine for its first commercial sail ventures. Tantalisingly, its website graphic is a schooner-rigged vessel that looks to be a form of scow.

No doubt Melvyn’s presentation will include a comprehensive overview of commercial sail innovation worldwide. Closer to home, longtime residents may remember the season that the oyster barge The Brain of Pooh plied the Mahurangi Harbour under sail—when the wind was on a favourable quarter for her. Melvyn Bowen’s commercial sail credentials, meantime, are rather more extensive, including serving as captain of the youth sail-training ship Spirit of New Zealand—the following from his curriculum vitae:

served as navigating officer in the British Merchant Navy in a variety of British-registered ships engaged in worldwide trading
qualified as master mariner
employed as lecturer in marine-sciences at Plymouth Polytechnic, South West England. During this time, also served at sea as captain of the sail-training ships Tectona, Charlotte Rhodes and Elsa—all based at Plymouth
served with Aotearoa’s Ministry of Transport as a nautical examiner and manager of navigational safety in the Auckland office of the New Zealand Marine Department.