The Coming New Age of Sailing Ships
Excerpt from Ch. 9 of Living the Revolution - The Enlightened Self-Interest of Being the Change the World Needs by Mark Mason
n the future I believe many will travel to other countries in sailboats with electric auxiliary motors. I also believe many big cargo and passenger ships will switch to this mode of propulsion. The end of the last age of sail was hastened by a number of problems with sailing ships that have now been overcome. Canvas sail cloth and hemp ropes rotted very quickly in the sun, and having to replace them every year or so was a big expense, however modern polyester sailcloth and ropes last for many years. My boat is 38 years old, and still has its original mainsail! The lack of reliable weather forecasting and radios to receive them with was also a problem in the age of sail, making it hard to avoid areas with no wind, where ships often got stuck, for days or weeks. It also made it hard to avoid storms which could damage or sink a ship. This problem has, of course, been solved, and the auxiliary electric motor, not available in the age of sail, would now be there to take a ship out of doldrums, where there is no wind, to a place where the wind is blowing and the voyage under sail can continue. Likewise, if you know about storms in advance, as we can do now, avoiding them becomes possible much more of the time. Auxiliary motors can also make passage times more predictable for sailing ships, canceling out a big advantage that steam ships had over tall ships at the end of the last age of sail.
There is more in this chapter of the book about how small cruising sailboats can be used to travel the world with a very low carbon footprint, especially if equiped with electric auxiliary motors with regeneration capacity. The author converted his own sailboat to this type of electric auxiliary motor, and tells the story of how of how that went for him when he sailed his boat from Oregon down to central Mexico.