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Bristol Stands By for First Delivery of Sailed Cargo Since the early 1900’s

8th October 2018

Categories: Latest News

One of the last surviving West Country trading ketches is currently on its way to Bristol, from Portugal with a cargo of wine, olive oil, almonds, chestnuts and salt, all from small producers and cooperatives.  The Bessie Ellen was part of a fleet that once stood at nearly 700 from 1900 to 1930 when working sailing ships were an everyday sight in English ports and harbours. 

The ship, which is expected to dock in Bristol at the beginning of November is being sailed on behalf of a growing community of sail-cargo-pioneers who are committed to a new way of business, one that honours producers, reduces emissions in transport and offers exceptional quality products at an honest price.  Bristol’s Portuguese wine importers, Xisto Wines and sail cargo initiative New Dawn Traders are working with the management team at Underfall Yard and the owners of The Bessie Allen to coordinate this momentous event. 

Bristol will become one of several ports forming part of a small but growing trading network that connects producers and buyers with sailing cargo ships, supply chains curated by both Xisto Wines and New Dawn Traders.

Anton Mann of Xisto wines says: “I have been working on ‘Port O’ Bristol’ for many years which is a project that links the twin cities of Porto and Bristol, re-establishing their ancient trade links.  Port O’ Bristol will be bringing barrels of the finest organic artisan Portuguese wines made by celebrated wine makers especially for this voyage to be bottled in Bristol. The wind powered transportation method makes our wines almost local!  Wines are available to preorder and for collection on our events weekend at Underfall Yard on 3rd & 4th November this year.”

Alex Geldenhuys of New Dawn Traders says: “This is an experiment in rethinking how we trade. We are asking our customers to pay upfront for the cargo and to collect direct from the ship, so everyone is invested in the voyage. The savings from no longer needing onward distribution, storage or retail marketing are passed on to the buyer. By making quality products affordable and still paying the producer a fair price, we can grow a market for ethical produce, shipped by sail - one community at a time.”

The Bessie Allen was lovingly restored by owner Nikki Alford, the ship now offers sailing holidays and sail training courses alongside cargo voyages.  Nikki says: “The ship is one amongst a growing number in Europe and around the world that are nurturing a renaissance in craftsmanship, from the construction and maintenance of traditional ships to the art of sailing cargo without an engine. I am delighted to be working with these pioneers who are showing that small actions, in collaboration and multiplied by many, can make extraordinary things happen.”

James Fitzgerald, who manages Underfall Yard, where the ship will dock says: “I absolutely love the project and think it’s great for all of us that are involved that Bessie Ellen is coming to moor at the yard.  We are working together to make the most of this first arrival in Bristol.  I believe that the visual impact the boat will have and the beautiful Portuguese produce that will be arriving will be welcomed by Bristolians who are always so committed to supporting independent businesses which are environmentally aware and embracing the traditions of our wonderful city.”

For further information, images and interview requests please contact

Pam@pamlloyd.com 0117 9247220

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