Sail transport and Puget Sound’s SCALLOPS network


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Sail transport and Puget Sound's SCALLOPS network

Written by Jan Lundberg

(with contributions by Fulvio Casali, Paul Flowers, Dan Bednarz, and Vic 

Culture Change Letter #165 - September 1, 2007

In the waters around Seattle, Washington, three dozen communities are enriching 
their bioregion with a common vision of sustainability -- despite the pressures 
of corporate globalization dominating almost everyone's life. This new vision is
being coupled with the resurgence of sailing, with an eye to the tempestuous 
horizon promising the unprecedented effects of peak oil and global heating.

The roots of this developing project include local, native traditions as well as
some modern daydreaming sailors hailing from as far away as California.

(click to jump to larger image in article)

With faith in both humanity and renewable-energy powered sails, an historic 
movement is getting off the ground in the Puget Sound. The group called 
Sustainable Ballard had already advanced green initiatives in their Ballard 
neighborhood northwest of downtown Seattle, gaining the attention of Al Gore. 
After much success in its four years of organizing, the group has an offspring 
that seems destined to become far bigger than the parent: SCALLOPS - Sustainable
Communities All Over Puget Sound.

Before going further into SCALLOPS and Sail Transport Network, let us capture 
the essence of Sustainable Ballard. It was born out of frustration with anti-war
activity when the U.S. and Britain invaded Iraq. During this time, the founders 
were also aware of peak oil and climate change. Seeing the futility of attacking
a negative (the executive branch across the continent) without offering an 
alternative, Sustainable Ballard's founders -- Vic Opperman, David Wright, and 
Erica Jones -- decided to focus their energy on rallying people around positive 
solutions to our oil-dependent, global-heating lifestyle.

As an example of the projects spawned by Sustainable Ballard, the whole town of 
Seattle has been turned on to local food supply issues. On Aug. 4, 2007 a local 
daily paper paid front-page attention to Sustainable Ballard's "100 Mile Diet." 
As people take the challenge, they get to know their local food sources while 
increasing awareness of the dangerous syndrome of "blueberries in winter" that 
Matt Simmons, petroleum-industry investment banker, has decried.

How Sustainable Ballard succeeds

The first festival put on by Sustainable Ballard was in 2003, and the three 
founders did all the work. Solid organizing and growth of the organization 
pulled in more and more activists and volunteers, such that subsequent Festivals
grew by leaps and bounds. Looking at the pieces necessary in the creation of an 
autonomous community that can survive if energy and food from far away are cut 
off, a structure like a starfish took shape. There are at present seven "arms" 
of the starfish:

- Transportation Guild (includes the "Undriving" campaign to maximize buses, and
the biodiesel project)

- Urban Design
- Food, Health and Medicine
- Home energy
- Community (includes Buy Local and homeless)
- Water, waste, environment
- Arts, crafts

At the hub there's administration -- all volunteer. Likewise for the "IT guy," 
PR, Finance, and Board of Directors. Vic Opperman has been the founding 
president, and recently turned over the reins to Jenny Heins.

Although Seattle has over a million people in and around it, Sustainable 
Ballard's approach is to be a global example of an urban environment within a 
large city. Ballard is "carbon neutral" thanks to a "climate trust fund" and a 
program for individuals called "achieve net green" costing $17 per month. The 
carbon footprint of Ballard is further reduced by wind generation and tree 
planting (elsewhere, providing offsets).

Because the group is all-inclusive, it is non-polarizing, and the city of 
Seattle feels comfortable consulting them. Fortunately, the city's mayor is keen
on organizing hundreds of other cities with the Mayor's Climate Protection 

Sustainable Ballard offers a library for tool sharing for gardening, as well as 
land sharing: some people don't have time to garden on their own land, and they 
offer space for those who have the time but not the land. The same principle 
works for all the guilds (starfish arms), as people exchange skills and their 
time to achieve goals. Bartering is considered vital for community health, and 
serves to deprive the global corporate economy of fuel for burning the planet.

Such projects of sustainability greatly interest the Culture Change reader, but 
the most ambitious of them all seems to be the one resulting from Sustainable 
Ballard's reaching out to fellow groups around the Puget Sound. SCALLOPS links 
groups such as Sustainable Ballard, Green Everett, Sustainable Bellingham, and 
about three dozen more at the latest count. More groups are joining and 
attending meetings.

SCALLOPS could help transform the local economy when the vast vacuum created by 
the loss of cheap energy and imported food greets society one day possibly soon.
And many of these activists see sailing and kayaking/canoeing as vital elements 
for our near and long-term future.

Where I write from in the San Francisco Bay area, yachting is popular and there 
are interesting destinations in a protected area. This makes commute-by-sail a 
natural for its strong return in anticipation of energy collapse. However, the 
community has not been so receptive to Sail Transport Network as Puget Sound has
been, and Sustainable Ballard may be the reason for Seattle's edge on leading 
with such a model for sustainable travel and trade.

The difference may be in philosophy or world-view: "This is about survival for 
the human species", sad Ann Sheerer at Sustainable Ballard's presentation at the
Climate Convergence in Skamokawa, Washington, on August 9. While a few people in
San Francisco Bay area understand this, most groups at all comparable to 
Sustainable Ballard have rather an "environmental issues" approach, with the 
assumption that seven million people in the Bay area will somehow be transformed
toward a green survival. Yet, as a trend setter, San Francisco Bay could regain 
its traditional maritime pride by hoisting sails with a new purpose. Some 
inspiration from Ballard:

³We have got to take care of ourselves. We need only look to the abundance 
within our own communities to reduce our dependence on energy, food and other 
resources from far away. To that effect, Sustainable Ballard seeks to empower 
their neighbors to become role models in sustainable practices, community 
self-reliance and environmental stewardship. Most everyone truly wants to make a
positive contribution to their families, friends, themselves and the world. 
Sustainable Ballard was created to give people tools and resources for making 
positive contributions.² (Vic Opperman, 2006, ReStore)

Origins of Sail Transport Network in the Puget Sound

In 1999 the Sail Transport Network (STN) was conceived. I was living in northern
California, interested in a more community scene than Arcata in Humboldt County.
I had once lived on a ketch for years, sailing to Greece from Los Angeles when a
lad, but I felt sailing in Humboldt County around Arcata left something to be 

The sailing off Humboldt (and north to the Strait of San Juan de Fuca) is more 
treacherous than some places in the world. There are no islands offshore to 
blunt the force of the sea and wind. Also, the number of safe harbors is few, 
or, they are not always accessible if the tide and winds combine to threaten 
capsizing your boat. As my bass-playing companion was from Seattle, it took me 
no time at all to visualize good sailing that stretches from the protected 
waters of spectacular Puget Sound almost consistently right up to pristine 
southeast Alaska.

Before searching for a sailboat we checked out the WTO protests at the end of 
November in 1999, and did our part against petroleum-powered world trade by 
helping to shut down the meeting with our presence. An able Humboldt contingent 
did well in shutting down the intersection of 6th and University in the face of 
tear gas, pepperspray and phalanxes of robocops. With a further desire to leave 
Babylon behind we looked for boats. We found a sweet Catalina 30-foot sloop in 

The first order of business, besides provisioning and getting to know our 
neighbors, was to prepare the Sail Transport Network brochure. A webpage was put
up, and various levels of participation for captains and port-folk were fleshed 
out. Media attention and funding proved impossible for STN due to petroleum 
prices' being still too low to stimulate interest. (That was then!)

One hundred mile map for Seattle

The idea for STN was simple, and remains the germ of today's concept of Sail 
Transport Network as further developed in the culturechange website, principally
by Dmitry Orlov, Paul Flowers and myself. Before summarizing it, here's the 
precursor of STN:

As a back-to-the-lander dabbling in farming (Pedal Power Produce Farm in 
Humboldt), who had not forgotten the freedom offered by sailing the open ocean, 
I thought of certain rivers, such as in Oregon. They would be good places, I 
reasoned, to base a farm whence one could canoe or raft down to the mouth of the
river that had a marina. The best of both worlds, fresh water and land, and 
access to the sea, would be achieved. This concept did not enjoy a lot of 
support, but then again I was not thinking of a system for a community just yet.

So STN's basis was to be the linking of coastal, river communities and islands 
via renewable energy: wind in sails. Paddling canoes and kayaks is another form 
of renewable energy, and indeed these craft were, along with running, the whole 
transportation system of the Pacific Northwest native Americans from Alaska down
south past Humboldt.

In the fall of 1999 one day I was at my Alliance for a Paving Moratorium office 
on the computer, and was spell-checking a document. My last name, Lundberg, was 
not known to the computer, and the suggested substitution was "landlubber." I 
was galvanized to soon prove the computer wrong!

A vestige of STN's vibrant ancestry was active until early in the 20th century 
in Puget Sound, especially Elliot Bay that laps up against Seattle: the Mosquito
Fleet. Many of the vessels were ultimately motorized, but it was a successful, 
efficient mix of boats that served the Sound's growing population well. (The 
modern ferries have had hideous histories of polluting, which has been fought by
San Francisco's Bluewater Network.)

This was before the dominance of cars, trucks and their highways and bridges. 
Before the Mosquito Fleet the indigenous tribes had plied the relatively calm, 
protected waters of the Sound and northward for millennia. There were no 
greenhouse gases or harm to other species, and no lack of boat building 
materials. The old growth cedar were most plentiful, and were made into long 
war-craft too.

STN is conceived in 2007 as a potential match-making service for linking 
captains with needed crew, and potential crew who need passage. Rather than 
building new boats or undertaking expensive refits, or purchasing expensive and 
large yachts, the efficient and quick approach is to utilize whatever 
functioning boats there are available.

As for cargo, it can be moved from Point A to Point B as crew "baggage" that can
get around regulations and red tape legally.

If some coffee is brought to the U.S. from the south, or Hawaii, the label could
say "Sail Transported" in addition to the "Fair-trade, shade-grown, organic" 
attributes that fetch a premium price.

Quantities will not be anything like today's fossil-fueled orgy of consumption, 
but will include many essential trade items including heirloom seeds and wisdom 
in the heads of the sailors to share with others across the sea.

Ecotopian daydream of sail-based community

Fulvio Casali, a sailor in the Puget Sound active with SCALLOPS and Sustainable 
Ballard, offers this Ecotopian day-dream that could very well spell our future 
-- if we are so lucky:

The doorbell rings. You open the door, and the delivery man hands you your 
weekly basket of produce from the CSA. With a smile, you inhale the mixed 
fragrances - you don't know which one is stronger - is it the thyme, the ripe 
peaches, the basil, or the bunch of cut flowers?

Suddenly you remember: the tip! You open the door and run outside again - good, 
he was just about to take off again on his freight bicycle. With a grateful 
smile, he tells you he was just about done with the CSA deliveries, but he has 
to make it back to the boat down at the dock. The skipper is waiting for his 
repaired mizzen sail, so the delivery guy needs to make another stop at the sail
loft on Leary Way on the way back to the ketch.

The story had made the rounds last week: several boats got themselves into a bit
of trouble in the last gale. Maybe the summer caused many sailors to throw 
caution to the wind (no pun intended), even though nobody was taking the old 
predictable weather patterns for granted anymore by now. Fortunately, there were
no major losses, but the ketch which today had taken on the CSA cargo had 
suffered a torn sail.

The sail loft was one of many businesses that had sprung up or expanded since 
the mosquito fleet of cargo and passenger sailboats started blanketing the 
waters of Puget Sound with sails, not unlike the fields of windmills that had 
sprung up in the plains of Eastern Washington state, and on ridges everywhere. 
You remember your last trip to the Olympic Peninsula, to visit your friends who 
run the farm outside of Poulsbo: short hike down to the harbor, boarded the 
boat, enjoyed the crossing on a sunny morning with a perfect little breeze, and 
the horse-drawn wagon ride to the country from Liberty Bay, made more lively by 
the chatty local passengers.

It was interesting to watch the skipper of the boat conduct his business via 
radio and wireless internet connection with the dispatch center, while his crew 
tended to the sails: he verified the cargo manifests for his next few trips of 
the day as they downloaded to his computer. Some shipments were not 
time-sensitive, as they were stored at the warehouses in the harbors, but many 
were processed in real-time, so the senders had to be notified that a boat would
be ready for pickup at a certain time, which could be predicted with good 
accuracy by tracking the wind conditions and the movements of all the boats and 
delivery bikes and carts via GPS.

It's all an intricate supply-chain where technologies developed for world-wide 
trade and shipping when oil was still plentiful and cheap, are applied on a much
smaller scale with renewable energy used for transportation, and a whole new 
array of trades and businesses. Whatever fossil fuels are still left, are now 
being used much more selectively for crucial infrastructure, such as the 
communication networks, including the satellites.

S/V Soliton, Fulvio Casali, crossing Puget Sound from Port Madison to Shilshole 
Bay. Photo by Dan Karten

Sail freight service between California and Mexico!

Downwind Marine in San Diego offer Baja Express, mail-collection and free 
forwarding that is clearly spelled out for folks availing themselves of this 
alternative to costly, polluting trucking.

DEFINITION OF MAIL: any carton containing parts, paint, other maintenance 
supplies, anchor, chain, etc.

LETTER-TYPE MAIL: "Downwind appreciates the importance of news from home. 
However, we don¹t have the time or personnel to sort and identify single pieces 
of mail that are incorrectly or insufficiently addressed (often requiring radio 
inquiries) for the 800-plus vessels cruising the Sea of Cortez and west coast of
Mexico with one or more persons onboard. PLEASE have your people back home put 
all your mail in a manila envelope once a month or so, label it with your BOAT 
NAME and YOUR NAME, and we will gladly forward it to you expeditiously. Please 
try by some method to keep us up to date on where you want your mail sent. BOAT 

³BAJA EXPRESS²: Any gear purchased through DOWNWIND MARINE takes top priority."

North Star, Port Townsend, courtesy Wooden Boat Foundation
Another arm or two from Paul Flowers

Editor's note: I know Paul to be a first rate singer, with Welsh passion and 
American soul-power, so his comments on arts and crafts are not to be taken as 
if he is a Philistine. - JL

Consider the following additional arms to your starfish, as it were.

First I'll put out what everybody hates to talk about the most, but is biggest 
make or break issue.

Security and Defense of the community (whether it is peak oil, economic collaps 
or a nuclear sun rising in the middle of downtown USA), any mass survival 
situation is going to be fraught with lawlessness for at least a few years. 
There will be people with guns who don't care how much you want to save 
civilization and be peaceful and eco-friendly; they want your food and medicine 
and they want it now.

As a combat veteran, I have seen the effects of civil war. Trust me, security is
an issue. The above paragraph isn't conjectural, I've seen it happen in three 
different countries. Guns exist and people have them and aren't afraid to use 
them and there's nothing that anyone can do about that. Believe me, unless you 
want some creep with a feudal-lord-and-vassal trip with a big ego to come along 
with a bunch of guns and lackeys who aren't afraid to shoot 'em, this community 
might want to have a few of their own as well -- unless no one really minds the 
idea of having all the community's supplies being looted or becoming a serf.

Also, there must be decision making on a community and regional scale; in other 
words, a system of government. Be it participatorily democratic (as in consensus
or direct democracy) or try and tweak the representative system to make a bit 
more fair. I don't know, but I do know that communities need to run, people need
clarity. They need to understand that they are not completely on their own and 
that there is a body of their peers out there who are doing all the things that 
they don't know how to do. Make sure the water is potable, make sure the trash 
is taken care of, make sure food is fairly and evenly distributed in a timely 
fashion, make sure that the livestock farmers have everything they need, and 
form networks of acquisition when they don't.

On the food arm. You can't expect everyone to eat at the same table in 
post-America. Therefore food distribution needs to be organized. If you're 
talking food distribution, then you also have to talk about either a straight 
giveaway system (which you can't possibly expect even 5% of food producers to go
along with...people have to grow the stuff which means a lot of hard, sweaty 
backbreaking work...try and get someone to just up and give their hard work 
away...) or you need to discuss some form of exchange. This is the basis of 
economy. Economy is not necessarily connotative to money. A barter economy is an
economy too. But how to decide what is worth what? How much for what? These are 
all things that need to be taken into consideration even before arts and 
culture. If a community without a support system (any town in America after the 
electricity stops working, which would also cause the pressurized urban water 
distribution system to fail as well as it is dependent on electricity for its 
operation.) has not considered ALL the basics of survival in a community 
setting, then all the arts and crafts are for naught because you wouldn't even 
survive to create another generation.

When tshtf, it's probably a good idea to figure out how to remake much of the 
underlying systems to society that we all take for granted that will suddenly be
gone before worrying about arts and culture, and you should clarify 
homeless...what homeless? The existing homeless of today, or the 115 million 
homeless from whatever happens? If it's the latter...don't even bother. People 
will find their own spaces. Abandoned houses, camps, these kinds of things will 
become commonplace. I don't think that an open bay shelter for the homeless 
(such as what exists today) would be such a good idea. No matter what it is that
happens, people will be traumatized. PTSD will be boiling in the heads of the 
people. They will need their own space.

Culture Change contributor Dan Bednarz commented on the above, and had this more
optimistic view:

"Public safety will be an issue but it is certainly tied to notions of community
and identity. Will we see roving bands of brigands like in the Middle Ages?

"I do not know how to speak authoritatively about this topic, but my hunch is 
that brigands, if they occur as a social phenomenon, will want to integrate into
society. And if we are talking about the few who will declare 'It¹s a Pirate's 
Life for Me!' I think they would be at a disadvantage. As you know, with less 
energy massive armies will not be feasible anyway."

* * * * *
Sustainable Ballard:

See Culture Change's articles on STN: SCALLOPS website under construction:
Bluewater Network
The Maltese Falcon, mega sail-ship featured in Wired:
* * * * *

The Climate Emergency Fast is Sept. 4. Have nothing but water for 24 hours, and 
spread the word. It's time to strike.

- U.S. Climate Emergency Council:
- Fasting for healing and inner peace:
- Pledge for Climate Protection:

- Global Warming Crisis Council listserve: email Wanda Ballantine, the "Raging 
Grannie," to sign up: •••@••.•••

SCALLOPS list of member community organizations:
Sustainable Anacortes
(Beat the Heat - climate action)
Sustainable Bainbridge
Sustainable Ballard
Sustainable Bellingham
Sustainable Bremerton
Sustainable Burien
Sustainable Capitol Hill
Sustainable Crown Hill
Sustainable Eastsound
Sustainable Edmonds
Sustainable Eglon
Green Everett
Sustainable Fremont
Sustainable Greenlake
Sustainable Gig Harbor
Sustainable Kitsap
Sustainable Lake Forest Park
Sustainable Langley
Sustainable Magnolia
Sustainable Mercer Island
Sustainable Mountlake Terrace
Sustainable Community Roundtable of S. Puget Sound
Sustainable Orcas Island
Sustainable Phinney
Sustainable Port Angeles
Sustainable Port Townsend Local 2020
Sustainable Puget Ridge
Queen Anne Neighbors
For Responsible Growth
Shelton Relocalization
Sustainable St. James
Sustainable Tacoma
Sustainable Vashon
Sustainable Wallingford
Sustainable Shoreline
Sustainable Snohomish
Sustainable West Seattle
The Relocalization Network

Posting archives: 

Escaping the Matrix website:
cyberjournal website:

How We the People can change the world:

Community Democracy Framework:

Moderator: •••@••.•••  (comments welcome)