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The Arrival Of The Gallant

October 13, 2019
by the gentle author

The Gallant arrives in Greenwich

Photographer Rachel Ferriman & I were at the shore to welcome the first sailing ship in more than a generation arriving at the London Docks with a cargo of provisions from overseas. Next year, we hope this will become a regular sight on the Thames with the Gallant bringing produce from Portugal and the Caribbean. Although it is a small beginning, we were inspired by this visionary endeavour which sets out to connect farmers directly with customers and make the delivery by sail power.

On board, we met Alex Geldenhuys who explained how she started this unique project.

“We are very excited because this is our first visit to London and we believe this cargo has not been delivered here by sail for forty years or more. We have olive oil, olives, almonds, honey, port wine from Portugal and chocolate and coffee from the Caribbean.

I set up New Dawn Traders in 2013. At first, we were working with ships crossing the Atlantic once a year bringing chocolate, coffee and rum but then I started the European voyages three years ago. We do two or three voyages a year which means we are learning more quickly.

With the captains, we decide when and where we will go and what we will pick up. We started in Portugal and most of our suppliers are based in the north of the country, small family farms producing olive oil. They give the best care for the land and contribute most to the local community. These farmers do mixed agriculture and so they also produce honey, almonds and chestnuts.

Next year, we look forward to working with Thames barges, meeting the Gallant in the estuary after the long distance voyage and delivering the cargo to London, just as they were designed to do. We will be back in the spring and customers can order online and then come down to the dock to collect their produce.”

The Gallant is a handsome schooner and we were delighted to explore this fine vessel moored in the shadow of Tower Bridge while the tanned and scrawny crew were unloading crates of olive oil, coffee and rum, loading them onto bicycle panniers for transport to the warehouse in Euston.

Down in the cabin, we met captains Guillaume Roche & Jean Francois Lebleu, studying charts of the estuary in preparation for their journey to Great Yarmouth, the next port of call. Guillaume began by telling me the story of the Gallant and revealing his ambition and motives for the undertaking.

“I am co-owner of the ship with Jean Francois, we take it in turns to be captain. The Gallant was built as a fishing boat in Holland in 1916, but, when we bought her two years ago to use her as a cargo vessel, she had been converted to carry passengers so we had to build a hatch for loading and enlarge the hold.

We are both professional seamen who have worked on big ships in the merchant navy and we want to do something about Climate Change, but the only thing we know is how to sail a ship. As well as delivering cargo by sail, we want to spread the word to encourage others so this can be the beginning of something bigger.”

Jean Francois outlined the pattern of their working year, making me wish that I could stow away on the Gallant.

“This summer we did two voyages to northern Europe from Portugal, two ports in France, a lot of ports in England – Bristol, Penzance, Newhaven, Ramsgate, London and Great Yarmouth. Next we go to Holland to deliver cargo there.

Over the winter, we will do maintenance before we sail across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and Central America to load rum, chocolate, coffee, mezcal and spices, and stop off in the Azores on the return voyage to pick up honey and tea. And we will bring this cargo back to London next year.”

I will report further on this remarkable project but in the meantime you can sign up to the mailing list at New Dawn Traders and be informed when you can next order goods to collect in London. You can also follow the voyages of the Gallant online by GPS at the Blue Schooner Company.

The crew of the Gallant

Alex Geldenhuys, founder of New Dawn Traders

Guillaume Roche & Jean Francois Lebleu, Captains of the Gallant

Celestin, First Mate of Gallant

Davide, Deck Hand

The cargo is delivered to the warehouse by pedal power

Photographs copyright @ Rachel Ferriman

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13 Responses leave one →
  1. denise berry permalink
    October 13, 2019

    Great writing as always and, especially, great photography on this one! What a joy to savor these tasty posts each day. Thanks, gentle author!

  2. Jim McDermott permalink
    October 13, 2019

    Lovely initiative. If it’s not quite the answer to the world’s present supertanker-glutted international trade system, it might be all we Brits need (or can afford) after The Awful Event That Must Not Be Mentioned.

  3. Ron Wilkinson permalink
    October 13, 2019

    Used to sail on schooners off the west coast (California), they were yachts though. One was a charter schooner out of Ports of Call in San Pedro, Diosa Del Mar in the 70s, as a deck hand. Iadmire these guys for starting up this enterprise.
    I wish them plain sailing.

  4. Susan Carlyle permalink
    October 13, 2019

    The Gallant dropped anchor in Deal and were entertained by The Smugglers bar with music . Even though Deal isn’t very big or has a harbour it is part of the Cinque group and has a fleet of fishing boats like Hastings on the shingle.

  5. Sarah permalink
    October 13, 2019

    I hope this business flourishes for all involved. Please keep us updated.

  6. Pauline Taylor permalink
    October 13, 2019

    Well, it is not often that I am at a loss for words, and if the voyages of the Gallant have given you a wanderlust I am not surprised. I love stories of the sea and sailing, my favourite book of all time is Riddle of the Sands, and this makes me feel, like you, that I would love to stow away. Congratulations to all those responsible for dreaming it up and putting it into practice and thank you GA for bringing it to us. Magical. May they all have many more happy and safe voyages.

  7. October 13, 2019

    Thanks for super write up and pics. Anyone interested in learning more can get in touch with us at Raybel Charters. We planed the arrival into London and are distributing the cargo across the city. And we have some of that sumptuous stock left!

  8. Paul Loften permalink
    October 13, 2019

    Oh how I would love to be up there in the Crows Nest with the bracing wind in my face perusing the wide oceans through my binoculars but alas on the first rough water, I would probably get stuck halfway up the rigging crying out for help !
    What a great idea to stimulate trade. I wish New Dawn Traders the very best of luck and shall keep a firm land lubbers eye out for the Gallant on my frequent crossings of the Bridge by car

  9. Jennifer Newbold permalink
    October 13, 2019

    Huzzah for the sailors! This endeavour may never make them wealthy, but if it makes them happy and demonstrates that this type of merchant sailing still has a place in the world, then I wish them the greatest success! Fair winds and following seas, my friends!

  10. Claire permalink
    October 14, 2019

    What an absolutely wonderful idea, I wish Alex and all the team the best of good fortune. Just one thing though, surely re: the crew, it should be ‘ brawny ‘ not ‘ scrawny’ ? !

  11. Andy Burridge permalink
    October 14, 2019

    A wonderfully evocative story about a romantic business venture.

  12. October 14, 2019

    A marvellous enterprise.

  13. October 26, 2019

    So interesting to hear about New Dawn Traders!

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