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HomeNationalA new carbon-free ferry service has left Dover - and we're onboard...

A new carbon-free ferry service has left Dover – and we’re onboardTAZAA News

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A new ferry between England and France aims to significantly reduce CO2 emissions by crossing the Channel. Positive News tests this

Ver-Thump. The boat’s bow slaps against the turquoise waves, the spray of the English Channel raining down on the deck. We are located in the middle of the Strait of Dover, the world’s busiest international seaway.

From the shore, the water seemed calm, but now here – effectively criss-crossing the motorway of huge cargo ships and the round-the-clock Dover to Calais ferry service – the sea feels very choppy.

“It’s a slight to moderate sea state,” says captain Jim Durden, meaning waves are between 50cm and 250cm high. In the world of sailing, it’s pretty calm.

However, the bow of Mago Merlino, the 12m long sailing catamaran we were currently riding, kept going back into the waves. It is absolutely exciting.

But this crossing is not just for fun. We are going to Boulogne-sur-Mer in France on a brand new ferry crossing service set up by SailLink.

Currently in the pilot phase, Durden and company founder Andrew Simons aim to launch a green sailboat service in 2023 from England to France for two years, testing the route and timing and streamlining procedures for passengers.

I want to focus on the sailing experience and the passengers can go back home and say they really learned something

“I’m not trying to be a competitor with ferries – I can’t afford a lorry,” says Simons, who dreamed up the idea of ​​creating an adventurous, green travel option between the two countries. “The cultural connection between pedestrians and cyclists, the heart of ports, the sailing experience, a real closeness to the sea and [for passengers] To be able to go back home and say [they’ve] I actually learned something.”

This crossing certainly ticks all those boxes. Passengers are encouraged to help if they wish – there are ropes to pull, sails to hoist, tacking to do. You can also go in for helming. The feedback so far has been positive.

“We’ve had a bit of a mix of passengers, some locals who have been here for a few days and some who are really trying [travel] A lot more. We also have commuters,” Simons said.

Ferry

Captain Jim Durden drives the Mago Merlino en route to France. Image: Daniel Fahey

François Louillet was one of the first passengers to use the service. A native of Boulogne-sur-Mer, he was using Saillink to cross the Channel, traveling to London overnight before returning home by car ferry.

“I want to travel between France and Britain and I want to try this new way of traveling because it’s positive and green,” he says. And did he enjoy the crossing? “Yes very much.”

Although exact details are yet to be announced, the Dover to Boulogne-sur-Mer route will run from Easter to October. A second line between Ramsgate and Dunkirk is on the cards for 2024, with the Newhaven to Dieppe crossing due to open in 2025 a more challenging one.

Ferry

Passengers are encouraged to help out if they want — so we joined. Image: Daniel Fahey

A new high-performance catamaran will be used for the daily ferry service, specially designed to cross the Channel as quickly as possible. Capable of holding up to 12 passengers at a time, departure times are timed with the tide to maximize maximum speed. Depending on the conditions, the crossings take three to four and a half hours.

As a boat builder and ecologist, Simons has previously worked with organizations such as Fair transportation, a Dutch company that transports organic and traditionally brewed goods such as rum and coffee by yacht. Because their boats have no engines, the journeys are carbon-free.

Saillink also aims to be carbon-free, but the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) currently requires commercial boats to have a diesel engine. Currently, the catamaran has a solar-powered electric motor and a diesel engine.

I want to try this new mode of travel because it is positive and green

“I’m hoping – and Andy is hoping – that his boat will be [100 per cent sustainable]with two electric engines,” Durden said.

“It’s not that we can’t do it, it’s more of a commercial aspect because you have to get yourself out of trouble with the engines… the MCA that governs us all doesn’t allow it. We currently have two electric motors. [but] I think that will change,” he says.

Sailing is one of the most eco-friendly forms of travel. It emits less than 1g of CO2 per passenger, km. By comparison, a short-haul flight emits about 156 g and a foot passenger on a ferry emits 19 g.

Ticket prices start from £85 per crossing. If sailing conditions are unfavorable, the yacht may have to use its engine. There may also be delays and changes to the schedule depending on the weather, although SailLink will work with local ferry operators to ensure passengers can cross the Channel if they are unable to travel.

“It should become a form of common public transportation between one country and another,” Simons said, “and that’s all it is.”

Main image: Nici Wegener / SailLink 2022

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