You may recall a reference here last week to a three-masted schooner story emerging from the haze.  Thanks to PortSide NewYork, I learned about a project

to ship cocoa by commercial sail.  And as a TWIC-carrying PortSide volunteer, I was invited into Red Hook Marine Terminal to blog for the  unloading of cocoa from the schooner.    Black Seal, a 70-foot Colvin “Sea Gypsy” design with the biggest cargo hold and steel pilothouse, has been the 25-year building project of Capt Eric Loftfield.  Tugster has featured many fotos of two other Colvin boats: samples at  Rosemary Ruthand the misguided Papillon.  On her maiden voyage, Black Seal traveled from Falmouth, Massachusetts to Puerto Plata, DR . . .  to Red Hook, New York.  With cargo.  Twenty tons of organic cocoa beans,

285 bags of over 150 pounds each.   And how much fuel was consumed in the 30-seaday, 3000-mile voyage?  Answer appears later in the post.

The cocoa represents about a year’s worth of Dominican beans used by Mast Brothers Chocolate.  Click on the 8.5 minute clip for some background.

Before containerization, this is what port work looked like.

According to Rick Mast, this voyage is partly about R & D, figuring stuff out like

the pricing, the efficiencies.

This cargo was loaded in the Domincan Republic in two hours and unloaded in Red Hook in

–because it meant fighting gravity–four.

By noon today, the hold looked like this;  I wish the blog could convey the heady aroma of chocolate that lingered.  I could sleep here and dream of flavonoids.

According to Capt. Loftfield, a Cook Inlet pilot in Alaska, the total amount of fuel used, including motoring out of and into port as well as running the generator and galley was

less than 50 gallons.  Assuming 3000 miles, that’s better than a Prius!

Here’s what 12 pallets of cocoa looks like on the dock within sight of

Wall Street.

Some inspiration for using commercial sail to move  cocoa from the Caribbean can be traced back to  Ross Gannon and Nat Benjamin of Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway.   Ross Gannon is the uncle of  PortSide New York‘s founder and director Carolina Salguero.  Gannon & Benjamin has received their own cargo (wood) by sail.   Some other examples of current commercial sail projects include Beth Alison,  Tres HombresKwai, and Albatros.    I’d love to hear about others.

All fotos by Will Van Dorp, who is ecstatic to witness extraordinarily-prepared people learning how to do extraordinary things by . . . jumping in–when the time is ripe– and doing them.

Challenges abound; the story of schooner John F. Leavitt illustrates the risk of jumping in prematurely, of not being extraordinarily prepared.

For the Wall Street Journal version of the story, click here.