Anton Mann stands proudly by as cargo ship de Gallant sails through the swing bridge and into Bristol harbour on this sunny Tuesday morning.
It is a historic occasion as the boat brings the first delivery of goods by wind power since the 1970s and a small cluster of people with cameras stand by to greet the crew, who have travelled from Portugal.
Their arrival makes Bristol one of a small but growing number of ports to join a trading network that connects producers and buyers with sailing cargo ships, giving consumers the opportunity to buy produce that has been shipped without the use of fossil fuel.
“The wind-powered transportation method makes our wines as good as local,” says Anton, co-owner of Port O’Bristol by Xisto Wines, independent Portuguese wine importers.
It’s an emotional moment for the businessman, who has been working on this project for many years.
“To finally have our twin cities of Porto and Bristol’s ancient trade links re-established is very exciting,” he says.
de Gallant, owned by the Blue schooner Company, docked in Bristol with a cargo of wine, olive oil and more, all from small producers and cooperatives, docking first near the Lockside in the Cumberland Basin and then moving through the swing bridge to Pooles Wharf.
Flufeee and Alex Geldenhuys from New Dawn Traders, an experimental business that organises the transport of cargo by sail, arrive on the harbourside to welcome de Gallant and its crew.
“We’ve done this in a few ports around the country, but never Bristol,” says Flufeee.
“It’s all about trying to create a different form of commerce.”
Alex explains: “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 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 grow a market for ethical produce, shopped by sail – once community at a time.
“Creating a sustainable economy is the biggest challenge. For example, if a ship like de Gallant holds 35 tonnes and only does two round trips a year, it does not sail to compete with shipping containers.
“This ship requires our patience, our loyalty and our love. It requires us to be human and not ‘consumers’.”
James Fitzgerald, who manages the Pickle at Underfall Yard, has been supportive of the project from the beginning.
“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.”