Turning the sea green

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Rick Riehle, Alex Tokar and Fulvio Casali were lucky this time.

Their sailboat didn't get caught in a current setting them in circles for hours on end, the tide didn't pull them in the wrong direction and the wind didn't push them backward toward the Seattle harbor from which they came.

The trip from Seattle to Sequim's John Wayne Marina takes this trio anywhere from 17 to 36 hours depending on the currents, tides and wind. Of course, it'd be easier to flip on the engine and go. But that would defeat the whole purpose.

Riehle, Tokar and Casali are part of the Salish Sea Trading Cooperative, a group working in conjunction with Nash's Organic Produce, Aster Coffee Lounge in Ballard and several Northwest co-ops to bring fresh produce to the city without using fossil fuels.

Aside from the truck used to bring the produce from Nash's Organic Produce to the marina, the transportation uses no fuel - barring emergency engine use if a large ship is approaching or a current throws them toward the shore.

Kathy Pelish, co-founder of the cooperative, drives an electric flat-bed pickup to the City dock in Ballard to pick up the produce and drive it to Aster Coffee Lounge.

The group makes about nine trips a season - June through October - and has a special Thanksgiving trip planned for this year.

Crew follows 'an inspiring act'

Casali, originally from Italy, said he got involved in the effort after four years of work in a separate sustainability group in Ballard.

"Being a lifelong sailor, one idea we'd been kicking around was this revitalization of the sailing aspect of transportation," he said.

Tokar never had sailed before but joined a similar effort by David Reid last year, which morphed into this year's Salish Sea Trading Cooperative.

"It was an inspiring act," Tokar said of Reid's trips to the peninsula using no fossil fuels.

Tokar, Casali and Riehle also work at Web Collective, a cooperative creating websites for sustainability organizations.

Riehle said his interest in local food supply encouraged him to get involved with the co-op and he currently is working with Pangaea Organica, an employee-owned coffee roasting co-op in Seattle, to see if they could add coffee to the run. The coffee co-op roasts Ethiopian, Brazilian, Mexican and Costa Rican blends, he said.

"We want to make the trip as productive as possible," he said.

Sailing provides unique experience

Getting to the peninsula the old-fashioned way has its ups and downs, the crew said.

The downside is large ships, fog, difficult currents and tides - especially near Protection Island, Tokar said.

"On the flip side, it's a nice island to wait by," he said.

Casali said he has never seen as many bald eagles as he did while stuck near the island during one trip this summer.

On another trip the crew saw hundreds of porpoises surrounding the boat. Yet another time they listened for 45 minutes during the night as a whale sprayed water through its spout, at first frighteningly close to the sailboat but each time getting farther and farther away.

"The blow sounded like a roar," Casali said.

While making trips the crew regularly updates the co-op's Twitter feed with anecdotes. To follow their next trip, scheduled for Oct. 15, go to

Reach Amanda Winters at

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