Sail cargo Project - Costa Rica

Here is an interesting endeavor and investment. It looks like a dream job.

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Bad link, try this:


It’s a nice interesting practical project. However, the world is not going back to wood ships because there are many good reasons why steel is better.
Historically, ship builders have cut down every forest they laid their hands on and planted monocultures of their preferred trees for the timber.

One thing I would be very curious to know is how to replace the plastic fish nets with the materials used before, and what were the drawbacks of using a more natural material in comparison to the nylons.

I wish them well, but if they intend this to be a for-profit venture, it has no chance of turning a dime. Maybe if they stayed in Central American ports–but even then I don’t think so. Just the charges for pilots in American ports would bankrupt them. U.S. longshoremen handling break-bulk cargo? I don’t see it. American port costs in general would drive them in the hole.

When I look at the website all I see is reference to investing and the environment. Nothing that shows the principals know about the cargo world in general, or the arcane world of BB cargo in particular. The images of the ship show lovely sails and pristine decks. From a guy who knows break-bulk cargo, I can tell you it’s a nasty, brutish business that takes place in the cargo holds and with the cargo gear–the latter of which I see absolutely none.

That being said, I wish them all the luck in the world.


Sounds similar to the Schooner John F. Leavitt, aka John F. Leave-It.


That’s exactly what I thought.

There are plenty of people who know how to sail, and plenty of people who know cargo. But who knows how to sail cargo around? So you end up sinking on your maiden voyage.

But it all comes down to insurance. if you’re going to call in an American port, you have to be insured up the wazoo, if only for crew injuries. And you can’t carry enough cargo on something that small, that slow, to afford that.

Agreed; at best, I reckon this group can only hope to find some small unique niche market to make a very modest return. Even the Coconut Busters that run out of the Miami River with far more capacity and ability scrape by on zero margin. But in the category of “chasing the dream” I love this group. If the minimum investment wasn’t so high I would throw them a few ducats to help them out and follow what they make of it. It sure would be fun to make a trip with them. I should have not placed in Pro Mariner Forum: Mariner Novelty would be more accurate.

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I know what this is…it is “the Producers” for the maritime world. collect way more money that the ship ever could cost to build, go tits up after her maiden voyage, keep all the extra cash plus the ship and let these “owners” attempt to get anything back with any recoverable assets thousands of miles from where they live and outside the reach of US Courts. Guaranteed, they won’t bother and this merry band sails away into the sunset drinking rum swizzles listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash sing “Southern Cross”. SHEER GENIUS!..but I am effing pissed I didn’t think to do this with my ship when I had her.

while I think this is all hooey, this might work if the vessel stays far away from the US ports and carries low value cargoes like copra which don’t require a time sensitive delivery. Of course, the crew will need to be paid nothing and live on rice, beans and fish.

either that or do a whole lot of smuggling


Probably nothing like the JOHN F LEAVETT at all.

Ned Ackerman was an over educated, book smart, fool with a trust fund that didn’t know how to sail. As I recall he has a Ph.D in Maritime History and had been affiliated with Mystic Seaport in some capacity. He built the LEAVETT and lost her in the first few hundred miles of the maiden voyage. He had a few crew that were coastal sailors that had never been out of sight of land before. When they had a few problems and Ackerman became exhausted, he gave up. He would not take any advice or get out of the way and let the crew save the ship.

Ackerman spent 20 years building another small schooner. He left Maine headed for the Caribbean. It took him several wet and cold late fall weeks beating up to the west’ard to get to Newport. He rented a car, drove home, hired a professional crew to go get the boat, and put her up for sale.

There have been some small sailing vessels that have quietly made some money trading modest quantities of goods that could be bought low in poor countries and sold high in the US. They were small enough operations to sail under the radar without attracting a lot of high cost overhead and bureaucracy, at least for awhile.

These folks in Costs Rica may know how to build a boat. They may know how to sail it, but their “business plan” and attempt to attract “investors” (in reality donors) for a clean, green, sailing machine freight service is laughable to me.


Hippies should really stay out of business unless their names are Ben or Jerry…


I think you’re right about the Leaveitt, I watched that documentary, “Coaster” years ago, it was obvious the crew were not mariners.

I didn’t know there were other vessels under sail trading. Maybe this project will do better working in the area of the trade winds.

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Commercial trade by Bugis Perahu (Pinisi) are still going on in Indonesia.
Admittedly all of them now have engines, but some still use sails when the wind is favourable:

Pinisi, Paotere Harbour, Makassar, Sulawesi, c.1994
This photograph from 1993 shows that Pinisi have sails furled and top masts. The following shots from 2012
and 2014 show the occasional furled sail and top mast, but not many.


I took some pictures of Perahu loading at Sunda Kelapa (old harbour near Jakarta):

The loading is done with man power:


I forget which vessel Coaster was filmed on. This was 40 years ago. It was all play acting. I attended one of the screenings. Ackerman was in the audience. A few real sailors were laughing and shouting “bullshit” in the more ridiculous parts.

There was a guy that did ok for awhile buying rum at cheap islands and sailing it to islands where it was expensive. When he grew to three boats he attracted attention and got shutdown.

Boats have bought tropical hardwood lumber up some horrible bug, snake, piranha,and crocodile infested river in Guyana. They sailed straight to boatyards in New England to sell it at an enormous mark up. Some of the exotic lumber was suitable for making musical instruments and very valuable.

Last I heard, one of the boats that had been doing lumber was doing something similar with a different commodity in the South Pacific.

I’ve heard about sailing vessels making money buying gemstones, antiques, pottery, textiles, leather goods, and artisanal craft products for resale.

The only proven way of making money under sail is “the skin trade,” carrying passengers. For every boat that is successful, several fail. The key to success is the personality of the Captain.

If this boat in Costa Rica is completed, it will end up carrying passengers somewhere else, perhaps Cabo.

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It was John F Leavett

From Wikipedia -

The building and the eventual sinking of the John F. Leavitt was the subject of a film dubbed Coaster , some six years in the making.[10] Critics gave the film glowing reviews, and it won the Best Adventure Film Feature at the American Film Festival. “A thrilling story”, said The Boston Phoenix . “Endowed with the beauty of an heroic epic”, raved The Washington Post . The schooner, carrying a cargo to Haiti on her maiden voyage, foundered in a gale off Delaware, an event captured on film.

Many in the schooner community, however, felt that throughout the sinking Ackerman was more concerned with saving face than saving his vessel.

As I recall, the real John F Leavett was the Curator at Mystic Seaport.

I haven’t heard anything about Ned Ackerman in a long time. I don’t know whether he is still alive. If so, he must be in his 80’s. I have not run into him along the New England waterfront in many many years. Ackerman was a highly intelligent, highly educated, snob with family money and a huge ego. He was an insufferable asshole.

When he was building the LEAVETT at the Newbert & Wallace yard in Thomaston, one of the old time windjammer owners called him: “crazier than an outhouse mouse.” Ackerman turned that around and said he was “crazy like a fox.”

The figurehead on the LEAVETT was a fox with feathers streaming out of its mouth.

As the LEAVETT was completed, Ray Wallace didn’t want to sign the builder’s certificate. He told Ackerman to sign it himself. Ackerman wrongly thought that was a compliment. It was quite the opposite.

It would be a mistake to generalize the the loss of the LEAVETT, or for that matter, the DAYSPRING, or the original PRIDE OF BALTIMORE, to all wooden sailing vessels. There are plenty of wooden sailing vessels with many decades and miles on them.


3 posts were split to a new topic: Steel Schooner Must Roos

Herb Smith on APPLEDORE IV ?

You probably remember as I do encountering topsail schooners loaded with timber in Indonesian waters in the past. From a distance they looked quite photogenic. Sometimes I regret having never been a photographer.

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They need to read “Way Of A Ship” by Villiers … gets into some of the economics of sailing cargo vessels. Simply though, you need a big weatherly sailing vessel to make quick enough passages to even hope of making coin with low value cargo.