New sustainable ferry from Dover to Boulogne to launch, taking just 12 passengers at a time

Dover is about to be reconnected with the beautiful and historic port of Boulogne in northern France – by a sailing yacht that will run a pioneering ferry service for pedestrians and cyclists.

The new enterprise, SailLink, plans its first voyage for 10 September. The one-way fare is £85.

The journey “from the heart of one coastal town to the other” is being sold as “an adventurous three- to four-hour crossing”.

A maximum of 12 passengers can be carried, to comply with maritime law.

The intention is to use the sails for power, but “renewably charged, auxiliary electric propulsion for low impact travel” is available when necessary.

The Dover Strait is one of the busiest shipping channels in the world. The founder, Andrew Simons, told The Independent: “You’re in the thick of it. The vessels are large and fast-moving, and we will avoid them.”

The company mission is “to provide a sustainable means of transport where there is currently none”.

“We recognise sustainability to concern all human activities and that we must now focus on regenerating the environment we depend upon.”

Passengers can decide whether or not to take part in the sailing.

“Feel the effect of the invisible force on the sails, keep an eye out for ships and watch the other coast grow closer,” says the company.

The pilot phase will use the Mago Merlino, a 12-metre commercially certified sailing catamaran.

The captain will be either Jim Duerden, owner of the vessel, a commercial yachtmaster and a sailing instructor, or his equally qualified son, Toby.

Passengers are told: “We will do everything we can to make the passage and the experience pleasant and convenient but cannot rule out delays or changes to the schedule – so just as for any other type of transport.

“Access on and off the vessel involves a ladder and stepping over a hand rail. Please be aware of this.

“Due to the type of travel, for the pilot phase we are not able to take children under six years old.

“Border checks will be conducted: this is international travel so passengers will need valid travel documents.”

In a note to prospective passengers headed “Refugee rights & welfare,” the company says: “SailLink is a responsible service offering legal and safe travel. As such, we can offer passage only to those with valid travel documents.

“We will however help to campaign for an asylum system based on solidarity.”

Mr Simons said: “If necessary we will go to the aid of small boats in distress.”

Dover is currently linked with Calais and Dunkerque by car ferry. The last service to Boulogne operated in 2008.

Another 12-seater service currently runs between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Kintyre Express connects Port Ellen on the Scottish island of Islay and Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula with Ballycastle on the coast of County Antrim. It uses a fast Rib powered craft rather than a sailing yacht.

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