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In conversation with Andrew Simons

Saillink founder Andrew Simons shares his plans for a new cross-channel ferry service by sailing boat

19 Oct 2023 2 min read

This is episode 9 of our 2023 podcast series. Listen to the episode here and find other episodes and previous series here.

This month we are joined by Andrew from Saillink which is a new company offering a cross-channel ferry service by sailing boat.

Andrew started life as a boat builder, then went into environmental science looking at lifecycle assessments of energy and transport systems. He grew up in Yorkshire, and now lives in Switzerland.

This is a service designed for those for whom the current options are not designed. I started this thinking, I want to arrive at the coast by train and easily get to a port where I can get across the channel. The cross-channel ferries are basically floating bits of motorway, so they’re not designed to link to trains. If you’re not going with a vehicle you don’t need to go on a huge ship from a ferry terminal, so I thought, why can’t you just walk down to the harbour? So that’s the idea. It’s aimed at foot passengers and cyclists, and people with pets.

I’m doing this on a shoestring – there’s no team or big financing. I wanted to be up and running already this year, but we’re not yet. The next best thing was to run this test phase and test the schedule. While that goes on we’re looking for the suitable boat to run the season from April to October. 

In terms of the low-carbon aspect, it’s a bit more complicated than just saying, this is a zero carbon way of crossing the channel. Until I know which boat we’re using and what the motorisation will be, it’s difficult to say how low carbon it will be. I’m keen to find the lowest-carbon method possible, because you have to motor in and out of the harbour and if there’s no wind, you need to use the motor in order to stick to the schedule.

There’s an option for having an electric motor which could be charged up in either port. We do routes that are in accordance with the natural prevailing conditions, to give us the best possible chance of sailing and continuing to sail. Sail should always be the best way of getting the boat from A to B.

Other advantages are the experience. This is adventurous travel. You’re right next to the water, it’s very involving. I focus on the experience and the convenience. At four hours it’s a longer crossing than with a ferry but if you consider the time taken at either end, it’s overall quicker because we don’t have lengthy check-in procedures. With us you can be on the harbour side, then we let you in the gate, then you walk down to the marina and you’re on the boat. 

Being right next to the water and being at sea is a very unique experience. Seeing the aquatic life and the navigational marks enhances the experience. There’s lots to learn as well about navigation and tides, so it's an opportunity to step into this world of sailing.

All being well we will launch in April 2024. If people would like to find out more, please visit the website or find Saillink on Facebook or Instagram.

Listen to the full episode here and find other episodes and previous series here.


Interview conducted and produced by Anna Hughes. Voiceover: Lou Millington. Intro music: Call to Arms by Aaron Paul Low. Outro music: First Action Hero by Aaron Paul Low.