The revival of interest in Breton traditional craft started in Douarnenez, North Eastern France and this is also the headquarters of the TransOceanic Wind Transport.
Last year, the TOWT moved 200 tonnes of cargo in sailing ships across the Atlantic and the English Channel, mostly with coffee and wine. Although the TOWT is trying to cut down global pollution by using sail, an engine is seen as the vessel’s first safety factor in an emergency. It is cheaper to use their engines to assist getting in and out of port rather than having to hire a tug.
Last year, the TOWT had the German steel schooners Avontuur and Undine under charter to bring coffee from Mexico and the wooden Dutch brigantine Tres Hombres went to the West Indies with supplies and returned with coffee.
The Cornish lugger Grayhound has been bringing spirits across the English Channel, all of which are sold at a premium because they have been delivered mostly under sail. The Dutch 27.7m steel schooner Gallant, built as a herring ‘logger’ in 1916 for the North Sea herring fishery she was bought last year by two owners in Douarnenez and may also join in carrying small cargoes under sail.
The TOWT has proved that it is still possible to deliver cargoes under sail, but the amount currently delivered will make little difference to global warming. However, they would like to take this idea a step further and build and operate their own 60m modern schooners for the Atlantic trade.