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Reports of Sail Freight’s Demise Have Been Mildly Exaggerated

INSERT DESCRIPTIONPhoto taken from Kathleen and May

Levitt recently sang the praises of cheap wine. But how can wine stay cheap when oil prices keep pushing up the cost of transportation? Sailing ships might be the answer. Last Friday, a 108-year-old British sailing ship delivered 30,000 bottles of French wine to Dublin. It was the first time since the 1800’s that anyone had made a commercial wine shipment from France under sail power, according to the Daily Telegraph.

While sail freight still costs more than petroleum-powered shipping, that could change if oil prices rise much further. That’s leading to speculation of a tall-ship comeback.

But people have been speculating about the return of sailing ships since the advent of the steam ship. This Times article, published in 1882, chastises merchants for having been “carried away by the idea that the day of the sailing vessel was over … in these estimates they were over-sanguine.” The article goes on to say that it “would not be strange” if sailing ships made a comeback against their steam-powered rivals.

So much for that. The last cargo ship to rely totally on wind power was built in 1926.