By Luise Wagner

Aboard BC’s first 100+ year old sailboat shipping from Vancouver to Salt Spring and back again

The Surfrider Voyage


We need to make collective changes on all levels and strengthen our local circular economy. Maybe going back to how we did things centuries ago isn’t such a bad idea? Hypothesis: can one bring a bright, juicy orange to Vancouver without leaving a carbon footprint? Surfrider was invited to go on one of the first sustainable cargo sail tours in BC. We embarked with the Providence1903 on a stormy day in June when other sailors closed their hatches and secured their anchors. Every Wednesday, the wooden ship goes on its Market Ship Gulf Island Tour and returns to Kitsilano in Vancouver on Friday – Vancouver to Ganges to Ladysmith and returning to Vancouver. “We need to offer a reliable schedule to be able to make this work”, says Captain Carson Tak.
We stopped at Saltspring Island’s citrus farm. Farmer and researcher Jane Squier created a tropical greenhouse paradise where she grows kaffir lime leaves, sudachi mandarins, grapefruits, passionfruit, avocados and fingerlimes for trendy/hip Vancouver restaurants. Instead of flying in exotic fruits from far-away countries, we can now eat guilt-free, locally grown products.

Providence 1903 – Aging Well Like a Fine Wine

The 116 year old Providence has spent her entire life plying the sea and has not gotten tired. It was a fishing vessel in its early days, however it has been rebuilt as a charter ship. It now ships artisan products and people. While the company is still building up its network, we met more business owners with artisan goods who are eager to ship by wind and waves. Gulf Islanders embrace sustainability and the chance to break free from dependency on BC Ferries. The ship offers 20 tonnes of cargo that can be stored safely in the ship’s belly. On this trip, the Providence brought over lemons and oranges from Saltspring Island, artisan ciders from Pender Island and mussels from the beds off Cortez Island.


Sail Away, Sail Away

There are some economic factors to consider in order to make this work for the future; Can local farmers supply enough products? Are clients prepared to accept longer delivery times? Due to unpredictable weather conditions, the duration of the trip can vary greatly. During our voyage we battled southwesterly winds which delayed our passage from Vancouver to Ganges. In those cases, the Providence has to run on their engine which is powered by bio-diesel made from recycled restaurant grease and fats. If you want to visit this beautiful historic ship and give your support, stroll down on a Saturday to Heritage Harbour – 1905 Ogden Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 1A3, Canada and hop aboard to buy some fresh roasted Providence coffee off the deck or join the crew on their next sail-powered cargo tours:

Many thanks to partners @providencesailcargo, @thegardensaltspringisland, @inmykitchen. 

Photos provided by @barbaratiliphotography