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So Long, The Gallant

June 1, 2024
by the gentle author

I am sorry to report that The Gallant sank after capsizing in a sudden violent storm early on Tuesday 21st May, twenty-two nautical miles north of the Bahamas island of Great Inagua with eight sailors on board. Six – four men and two women – were rescued from a life raft, but the two other crew members – Emma T (31) and Léa B (28) – were lost at sea.

The Gallant arriving in Greenwich

In 2019, 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. Over subsequent years, the Gallant became a regular sight on the Thames, bringing produce from Portugal and the Caribbean. Although it was a small beginning, we were inspired by this visionary endeavour which set 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 was a handsome schooner and we were delighted to explore such a 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.

“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.”

The work of The Gallant goes on. You can order produce from Sail Cargo London and learn more by following New Dawn Traders.

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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19 Responses leave one →
  1. Greg T permalink
    June 1, 2024

    That’s so sad

  2. Annie Green permalink
    June 1, 2024

    Genuinely sad news.

  3. Georgina Briody permalink
    June 1, 2024

    So sad and sorry to hear this news.

  4. Annie S permalink
    June 1, 2024

    Oh my goodness, what tragic news.
    Thoughts and condolences to the friends and relatives of the two people who lost their lives.

  5. Cherub permalink
    June 1, 2024

    This is very sad news RIP to the people who have lost their lives. Such a beautiful craft.

  6. June 1, 2024

    How sad, so sad.

  7. Bethea Jenner permalink
    June 1, 2024

    That is so sad to hear. RIP Emma & Lea.

  8. June 1, 2024

    So very sorry to hear this. Such a great project but easy to forget the sea can be a perilous place.
    May those lost rest in peace

  9. Sharon Amos permalink
    June 1, 2024

    Heartbreaking news. Going to see the ship at Queenborough on the isle of Sheppey and picking up coffee and chocolate was the highlight of my lockdown summer after reading your initial post.

  10. June 1, 2024

    I did wonder if the Portuguese cod fishing sail boats still fished off Newfoundland but it seems they finished in 1974( having continued all through WWII) . It was also a risky voyage

  11. Claire D permalink
    June 1, 2024

    So very sorry to read this sad news. My sympathy and condolences to the crew and family and friends of the lost.

  12. Jill Wilson permalink
    June 1, 2024

    Yes – very sad news. Condolences to all concerned

  13. Saba permalink
    June 1, 2024

    A noble and beautiful crew carried out an idealistic plan. They showed the rest of us a better way to live. I mourn their loss, particularly the loss of the two young sailors, and send good spirits to all who surrounded them.

  14. Robin permalink
    June 1, 2024

    This is terrible news. Such beautiful, dedicated, visionary people and such a beautiful ship.

  15. Sue L permalink
    June 1, 2024

    How very sad, may they rest in peace.

  16. Betsy Gaylord Barker permalink
    June 1, 2024

    So very sorry…such brave folk.

  17. June 1, 2024

    This is a shocking and terribly sad announcement. I send my deepest condolences to family and friends of those lost. Such an honourable endeavour, this is a tragic loss.

  18. Dom Partridge permalink
    June 9, 2024

    Absolutely tragic, this is very sad to read

  19. Rosa permalink
    June 18, 2024

    Too cruel. Their poor loved ones, families and friends.

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