Olive Oil by Sail – Building a CSS Network

Olive Oil by Sail – Building a CSS Network
December 7, 2017 Alex
Reigado Family 2017
Reigado Oil

This Autumn we welcomed the Fairtransport ship Nordlys to Portuguese, French and English shores to complete a second shipment of 2,245 litres of the finest Portuguese olive oil.

We are reducing the supply chain to its simplest form: Farm – Ship – You and pioneering a movement for COMMUNITY SUPPORTED SHIPPING.

By using sailing vessels to cover the largest part of the distance from farm to plate, we are not only reducing the use of fossil fuel in transport but creating work for these traditional trading vessels, opening up unique markets for small family farms and enlivening quiet ports. In the process we are taking international trade back to a human scale whilst offering the highest quality products at the best possible price (with a fair share to all)…

“How?” you say. By asking our community and customers to become part of the adventure. By pre-ordering and paying in advance for your olive oil, we have a better idea of how much to order and do not have to front the cost fully ourselves, a real help for a small business. By committing to pick up your order from the ship when she arrives, buying oil as a collective or through a local food cooperative, you take care of your share of storage and onward distribution. By buying in bulk, we supply the oil in 5 litre bottles as we receive them from the farm, we significantly reduce the need for excessive fancy packaging – it’s what’s inside that counts.

With Sail Cargo, international products become as good as local and therefore a natural extension of a healthy, sustainable food network. Sail Cargo can bring diversity to a local market with foods from different climates, bioregions and cultures without supporting the inherent pollution in the default shipping industry or the poor working conditions suffered by sailors in many of these container ships.

This is why we make every effort to choose products that are produced in line with our ethics, so that the goodness runs from soil to serving.

Ancient Olive Tree

Ancient olive trees, more than a 1000 years old, growing under the expert care of the Reigado family.

This year we shipped olive oil produced in Portugal. Our new collaborator and friend, Marije of Passeite, who is an olive oil sommelier, farmer and restaurateur, has brought us the very best oil from regional farmers – the Reigado Family and Caixeiro, from the YEP cooperative. We work with growers who are passionate about the land, the people they support and the cultures they preserve. This quality of production is reflected in the exceptional quality of taste, and we believe that this should be the standard, not the exception, which is often made available only to those who can afford “luxury” prices.

Above are photos from our visit to the Reigado farm in April 2017. Marije describes her first meeting with Emilia and what makes their olive oil so special:

Some producers you can only meet in small fairs in Portugal and this is how I met Emilia Reigado. I was at the Bienal do Azeite in Castelo Branco to hunt for table olives and found Emilia, a tiny lady with a big red flower in her hair and exceptional commercial skills. She kept on chatting to me in Portuguese while I understood only half of it, but when I tasted the oils and olives and was sold.

Emilia and her husband are traditional farmers, buying plots bit by bit in a Valley around Cõa (Figueira de castelo Roderigo), a protected national park that is home to their 1000 year old trees. They work with a few varieties from this area: Negrinha, Cornicabra and Verdeal. Some trees are only used for table olives, others for olive oil. It is a tough environment being very dry and hot in the summer and they harvest manually as most of the trees are on steep slopes. The whole environment is maintained organically and you see all kinds of wildlife around the olive trees, animals, insects, wild lavender, almond trees.

Besides the lovely views, the two live in a modest house in their village and occasionally show the few lost tourist the amazing old olive press of the village which is completely in tact. They harvest about 3000 litres per year which is not much at all. We are very fortunate to be able to have access to ⅓ of her crops to share with our buyers.

The olive varieties used for pressing this oil are Verdeal and Cornicabra. Emilia is doing a ground blend, which mean that olives are picked (mostly by hand and mechanical sticks) and pressed together as they are harvested. Each year therefor nature decides on the flavours and notes making it extra special. These varieties are typical for the Beira Alto area where they are produced. Verdeal brings an intense flavour with a slight bitter and strong spicy flavour, this means that it has high values of polyphenols that brings us the good health benefits such as antioxidants and vitamin E. Verdeal has a pleasant fruity aroma with some tones of tomato leaf, fig leaf and artichokes. The Cornicabra variety is present in Spain and Portugal and is known for its stability because of its high content in monounsaturated fatty acids and therefore make it especially appropriate for dietary purposes.

Tasting Notes:

This variety has a balance between sweet dried red fruits at first, and then has notes of green apple and almond nuts with a medium-intense peppery flavour. The texture is smooth and velvety.


This extra virgin olive oil is your all round medium intense friend and is great for using in your everyday kitchen. Topping off salads, soups, pastas, stir fried veggies or just some for dipping with bread.


We are also working with Caixeiro a brand of sustainably produced extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) from the Trás-os-Montes area of Portugal. Above are some photos of the harvest (from the Caixeiro website) and the one below is a photo from our visit in the Spring 2017 to Trás-os-Montes Prime, the press where Caixeiro and other members of the Young EVOO Producers (YEP) cooperative press their olives.

Marije describes Edgar and his unique EVOO:

  Edgar is an Industrial Designer, always thinking on new ways and concepts to make things better, and he understands that cargo transport is something that can be changed, so we challenged him to come on board. His only concern was keeping the quality intact, as best as possible with the larger volumes, so that’s why we are working on the bag-in-box concept together for future voyages.

Caixeiro is a mid-sized farm combining traditional farming with new technology. They are researching a lot on terroir of local varieties and also work with other products in the Soresa family such as goji berries, almonds & chestnuts. Edgar is responsible for the olive groves and at harvest time is on the fields selecting his blends with great care.

The family has several plots around the area making harvesting somewhat complex with a mix of different varieties in each. They harvest with a bobcat and vibrating machines, 4 men total and always the same team. Each day’s harvest is taken straight to the press in the evening to be extract the oil over night. The press Edgar uses, Trás-os-Montes Prime, is extracting more than 50 of the best olive oils of Portugal. I’d say the best press in Portugal, with the stone mill still in place.

Tasting Notes:

This exceptional oil has a fresh and fruity aroma with notes of fresh olives, herbs and tomato leaf. The palate is bitter and spicy, fairly balanced with notes of olive leaf, nice and harmonious.”

(The bitterness comes from the Cobrançosa variety and the green freshness from the Madurai & Verdeal varieties.)


Good all round oil, great for soups, stir fried or oven vegetables, tomato based salads and sauces.

This year again our cargo was carried by the Fairtransport ship. the Nordlys. Above are images of the loading of the ship in Porto, Portugal at the end of September 2017. Marije collected the oil from the Reigado farm and picked up Eduardo and his oil in convoy on the way down from the mountains to the port. This was such an exciting moment for the team as we had been preparing for this moment since the ship was initially scheduled for loading in May.

The Nordlys is a Brixham Trawler originally built in 1873 for deep sea fishing off the coast of Devon. These ships are known for their red sails, coated with local ochre, and were once a common sight off the south coast. When the Fairtransport Company acquired the ship a few years ago, it was in a sad state and required a full refit – there is hardly an original plank! This near complete rebuild, is part of what has caused the ship significant delays these past years, and the hope is that it is at last finally fit to sail and keep a schedule!

Without an engine, the Nordlys is beholden to the winds and capabilities of its crew, and like the olive oil producers, the work is seasonal. This form of transport is tuned back into the elemental rhythms of the planet and requires a business model that is flexible enough to accommodate it. This is why we ask communities to come together and support our trade. With everyone investing a little money and a hearty dose of trust and patience, we can add another small victory to the groundswell of positive change that is creating a new economic ecosystem.

Though the ship is only one of many links in the chain from soil to serving, it definitely steals the show. The Nordlys is an impressive craft, and with a handsome crew, the ship was much anticipated by our Port Allies.

Our first delivery was for 550 litres of Caixeiro EVOO to the people of Noirmoutier, a small island off the coast of Nantes, France. After a several days of just the lightest puffs of wind the ship made it close enough to the port of Herbaudiere for the SNCM lifeboat to pick it up with a tow line for the final meters.

Lammert, the ship’s captain describes the event in the ship’s BLOG:

We are under sail again. Tacking our way out of the Bay of Biscay and heading for Fowey in Cornwall. Two beautiful days we spend in another little paradise. At our arrival, it looked like, if almost all the people of the village L’Herbaudiere, were standing at the pier to welcome us. Assisted by the SNSM rescue boat, we could enter the harbour.

At Ile de Noirmoutier we unloaded a part of the portuguese olive oil.
All the olive oil was already sold. Everybody came directly to the ship to pick up their share of this delicious oil. This was a interesting happening with a tasting session at the quay. Several articles appeared in the local newspaper.

We were the talk of the island for a couple of days. All this was made possible by Alexandra Geldenhuys from “New Dawn Traders” and Alex Etourneau who imported the olive oil. Also thanks to Etienne and his friends, who introduced us to the island, invited us for a delicious meal and helped us a lot in many ways.  Thank you Noirmoutier.

Captain Lammert Osinga

The happening was such a success that the team in Noirmoutier are already planning for next year’s event and hope to double their order of olive oil.

The next port of call was Fowey, Cornwall where it was hoped that the ship would join us at the 4th meeting of the Sail Cargo Alliance. By now the weather was becoming more and more dramatic as hurricane Ophelia came to pass. The ship didn’t make it to the meeting but with the wonderful support of Anton from Xisto Wines (who imports exceptional Portuguese wine with the ship) the crew unloaded a portion of Caixeiro oil for Sail Freight who picked it up in their electric van destined for Stroud and an amount of Reigado oil for our New Dawn Traders stores in Bristol and for the Real Economy Cooperative. The ship made it to safety in Brixham before the full force of the storm set in.

It was with the tail end of this heavy weather that the Nordlys made it further east along the south coast to Newhaven port with the final delivery of CSS oil, to our port allies Sail Boat Project.



If you too would like to become a part of the chain get in touch!

As we develop a healthy ecosystem for sail cargo products, we will add other cargos into the mix. For now, starting with olive oil is great and needs very little effort to get going. Become an OIL TRADER but with the best side-effects: eating delicious olive oil, making new friends and spending time with handsome ships! You can take part as a seasonal hobbyist and grow your trade to a scale that suits you. We are all in it together and share our experiences and expertise.

We are looking for:

COMMUNITY BROKERS: can you pre-sell 200 litres to friends and family and pick-it up on their behalf from the ship? Can you take on a small stock of oil to sell at your local food cooperative? or Food Assembly? For the next shipment in the Spring / Summer 2018 we will call in at Noirmoutier, Fowey, Oban, Brixham, Brighton, Douarnenez, Blankenberge, Bornholm, Rostock, Copenhagen, Den Helder and Bremerhaven.

PORT ALLIES: do you live in a port? Can you rally a community around the arrival of a ship and the sale of 1000 litres or more of olive oil? We are particularly looking for Allies along the sailing routes from Portugal to around the UK and the North Sea. We need to expand our network of friendly ports who are sympathetic to what we are doing and will support and share in the activities.

This is not just an economic ecosystem, but a cultural one too. You can take part in every aspect: work on the farms, sail with the ships and sell the oil… oh yes and share and enjoy every bit of it!

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