The Pleiades, a replica of an 1830 Eastport Pinky Schooner, set sail from Olympia to Longbranch this summer carrying organic produce from Olympia famers as well as a few passengers.
“I can sail from Olympia to Longbranch almost as fast as a truck can drive there, even faster, with the right currents and weather conditions,” said Hoyle Hodges, owner of the Olympia Schooner Co. and captain of the Pleiades.
Hodges said the goal of his operation is done in a “sustainable manner without contributing to the pollution of our beautiful Pacific Northwest environment.”
He uses fuel only for safety and docking.
The idea of using his boat to carry produce and passengers, and perhaps other products in winter months, began with a “Business and Sustainability” class at the Evergreen State College. The goal is to establish an alternative, emission-free shipping service that brings together local farms, businesses and individuals in South Sound communities, he added.
Boston Harbor Marina, the first destination from Olympia, was soon followed by Longbranch Marina, where a few people met the boat to purchase fruits and vegetables.
Don Greetham, his sons Jim and Mark, and his granddaughter Ann traveled back to Olympia on the boat.
“It was a very pleasurable, mellow afternoon, including the sighting of dolphins and stimulating conversation about Mosquito Fleet days,” Greetham said. He remembers some of those days.
Hodges hopes to add other communities, such as Steilacoom and perhaps another place on the Key Peninsula, to the destination list.
The produce is purchased from organic vendors at the Olympia Market and carried on bicycles by Evergreen students to the boat. Hodges offers 10 percent discount to anyone who picks up the ordered groceries with a vehicle that doesn’t use gas or diesel.
He hopes to contract with growers rather than go through the market process.
Hodges bought the 59-foot wooden boat a year ago with one purpose: to give his 5-year-old daughter Heidi the experience of sailing and being outdoors. Heidi gives visitors quite complete tours, pointing out small details such as a mirror and how the kitchen faucets work, he said.
Elmira, his wife, is in charge of the produce sales.
Sister Betty calls herself galley cook and steward, John Prins is first mate, and volunteer Richard Hoffman completes the crew.
Hodges offers chartered half-day or full-day cruises around Puget Sound. He can carry six passengers at a time, and the boat sleeps seven people for overnight charters.
Hodges wants to reproduce the sense of community from the Mosquito Fleet era in a sustainable manner.
To place an order for their next delivery or arrange passage, call Hodges at (360) 867-1932.