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The Return Of The Gallant

July 5, 2020
by the gentle author

The Gallant is returning to London on 11th July when cargo can be collected from the ship at St Katherine Docks. Click here to place a last minute order

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. 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.

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. July 5, 2020

    I wish them “fair winds and following seas.”

  2. July 5, 2020

    Thank you for this wonderful post and I wish everyone with this project every success.

  3. Grace permalink
    July 5, 2020

    Love this! Sustainable and aimed at small scale production and distribution. Might this be the future of trade? Let’s hope so!

  4. July 5, 2020

    Thank you for this story about spirited optimism and entrepreneurial verve!

    (and great photos!)

    Stay safe, all.

  5. Amanda permalink
    July 5, 2020

    This is THE most fascinating innovation.
    l so lamented the death of our bustling Docklands due to container shipping and other factors.

    l know exactly why the crew have those special smiles – contentment, freedom, adventure.
    My own maiden voyage working on a cruise ship was Lisbon, Madeira, and breakfast in Casablanca.
    The exhileration of watching the dolphins dipping up n down, following a sailing ship, low in the water must be one of their highlights.
    l cried the first time l saw them because l’d achieved my ambition of following my voyager father’s sea legs.

    Thanks GA and please don’t stow away unlesss you write your blog from each port.

  6. Saba permalink
    July 5, 2020

    I look at these faces and find the people my soulmates. Bravo for the individuality of each. They have wonderful lives ahead of them, even if the mainstream does not always agree with their decisions. I don’t live in England — I live near the Hudson River in New York State. Anyone like to start a similar project here? Sail from the local farms down to New York City? Wow, what an excellent adventure.

  7. July 5, 2020

    Great bunch of people, fantastic idea, beautiful, so beautiful, boat, wonderful article.

  8. Jennifer Newbold permalink
    July 5, 2020

    Another reason to wish I lived in London!

    What a fantastic enterprise. I wish them every success.

  9. Gillian Tindall permalink
    July 5, 2020

    Lovely idea, hope it does well. But are we sure the ship is arriving at St Katherine Dock on the 11th?
    Sailing ships, by long, long tradition, have never been able to give exact times of arrival, and if she’s been crossing the Atlantic… Or is she even now hiding somewhere down the Estuary, biding her time, I wonder.

  10. July 5, 2020

    She is a beautiful ship. Funnily enough she docked in Penzance Harbour this noon. She is quite a frequent visitor to us here and a real joy to see her. Especially when under sail.
    Best Regards.

  11. July 5, 2020

    I would Love to be on this Amazing Boat. Good Luck to Them on their Sailing!!???????

  12. July 6, 2020

    well thanks to this article I put in an order, a small one, but next winter cocoa will sure taste different and I know where I shall be on the 11th, which is an important date for me anyhow

  13. July 6, 2020

    it spurred me to place a small order so I will be collecting coffee, cocoa and salt on the 11th, an important day in my life anyhow
    looking forward to it

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