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Tall Ship ‘Stad Amsterdam’ Hosts the Blue Tech Future

If only sailors ran the world. There’s nothing that makes us more upbeat than connecting with sailors who continue the innovations that started powering windships around the world, and continue to demonstrate creative thinking inspired by the forces of nature. We were fortunate to be invited by photographer, freelance writer and SF Blue Tech founder Martha Blanchfield to attend a reception for some of California’s blue tech innovators aboard the tall ship Stad Amsterdam. Numerous blue tech creators attended to connect and hear from Danish skipper Sune Blinkenberg about what the ship is doing to move up the sustainability curve.

Captain Sune Blinkenberg
While surrounded by a luxurious display of old tech, skipper Sune Blinkenberg explained the ongoing development of new tech.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Heather

Captain Blinkenberg is one of the captains leading the multinational crew of the tall ship, run and owned by the international HR consulting firm Randstad Holding and the city of Amsterdam. He explained that while the ship still relies on fossil fuels, the participants have been dedicated to upgrading and incorporating the latest technology to reduce both the carbon footprint and their ecological impact. Ultimately they want to get back to where tall ships started — with the ability to travel around the world without using fossil fuels, although with the comfort, convenience and schedules of modern life. Clipper ships were pushing the limits of technology in the late 1800s, and ships like the Stad Amsterdam are doing the same today.

The sailing ship Stad Amsterdam
If the winds are favorable, the Stad Amsterdam will sail most of the over 5,000 miles from San Francisco to Japan, with a stopover in Hawaii. She leaves Sunday morning.
© 2024 Stad Amsterdam

First and foremost, the Stad Amsterdam aims to sail. The ship, launched in 2000, is 250 feet long with 31 sails that collectively set almost 24,000 square feet (or half an acre) of sail on masts reaching up 154 feet. The ship is traditionally rigged and moves along at a steady 10-15 knots under sail. Because of normal prevailing winds, they were able to sail only 25% of the time on the Panama-to-San Francisco leg of their round-the-world mission. On board they also have a wastewater system that turns all waste into drinkable water to minimize pumping human waste into the ocean. They’ve upgraded their diesel power plant for better efficiency, and continue to look at diesel electric hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell options for the future. Randstad HR also looks to the future by incorporating youth employment programs to help develop trade skills, leadership and teamwork for tomorrow’s work force.

The presentation from Captain Blinkenberg was followed by a presentation from San Francisco’s Chief Climate and Sustainability Executive/Director of SF Environment Tyrone Jue, who was appointed by Mayor Breed in July 2023. He highlighted San Francisco’s legacy as a technology, sustainability and climate leader that continues with the goal of reaching net zero carbon by 2040. Jue sees the engineers who built the Bay Area’s social-media titans moving from companies like Google, whose motto is “Don’t Be Evil,” to companies whose mission is to actually do good. The collection of innovative minds in the room and the inspiration of the Bay Area’s steady breezes and ocean connection make it an obvious hub for blue tech leadership.

Stad Amsterdam bridge
Stad Amsterdam’s modern bridge shows how technology and sailing can combine to sustainably improve the world.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

In August 2023, Martha Blanchfield started SF Blue Tech, which, to date, has hosted local happy-hour mixers. The goal is putting blue tech companies, ocean and coastline stewards, plus sailing leaders, all into one room to connect and help our waterways. The special March 17 blue tech leader reception was hosted aboard the Stad Amsterdam as members of that team immediately recognized the value of their collaboration. Blanchfield stated, “It’s my wish the gathering serves as a springboard to strengthen ocean dialogue, build more blue connections, and foster future sustainability efforts.”

Stad Amsterday
Someone knows how this works, and if sailors can figure this out, they can figure out how to create a clean-energy, sustainable planet.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Some of the blue tech developers in attendance on Sunday included Thomas Boerner (co-founder/CTO,) and Michael Kelly (hydrodynamic and mechanical engineer) of CalWave Power Technologies, and co-founder/CEO Marcus Lehmann, plus his family​. Other leaders included CEO/co-founder of Scoot Science Dr. Jonathan LaRiviere and his young son, from Santa Cruz. On the West Coast, there is also strong interest in seaweed farming. California mariculture proponents are hopeful that complex permitting and permissions required by regional and state entities may eventually start to ease.

What does blue tech green energy look like? Much of it is under development, but for the curious, below is a video from CalWave on their evolving wave power technology. Fast, foiling electric ferries from Navier are another local source of development, as well as the autonomous Saildrone ocean research vessels. Both are dramatically reducing fossil fuel usage in traditional maritime operations.

Currently SF Blue Tech members include blue tech startups, groups working to restore the ocean, coastlines and wetlands, maritime and ocean studies students and educators, biologists, scientists, blue AI and ML, water tech and ocean scientists, analysts, inventors, blue tech angels, investors, sailors and members of the marine trades. Latitude 38 collects its stories on the maritime trades and waterfront blue tech innovation on our Working Waterfront page.

Betz Hooper and Arvind Patel of San Francisco Boatworks were representatives of San Francisco’s working waterfront who heard more about marine blue tech.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Hans and Sophie List from the Master Mariners Benevolent Association and Alan Olson and his wife Angie Lackey from Call of the Sea/Matthew Turner were on hand to encourage the blending of the old and new. The classic-rigged tall ship Matthew Turner features one of the most technically advanced diesel electric hybrid propulsion systems installed on any large sailing vessel. Its large battery bank can be charged by regeneration from the prop while the vessel is under sail.

Hans List, Martha Blanchfield, Sune Blinkenberg
Master Mariners Benevolent Association Commodore Hans List presents an MMBA burgee with SF Blue Tech founder Martha Blanchfield to Stad Amsterdam skipper Sune Blinkenberg.
© 2024 Stad Amsterdam / Bart van Liempt

Key things SF Blue Tech is working toward: continuation of networking events, a blue speaker series, blue tech/ocean trade shows, improved access to funding/support/work space for startups, mentoring, job fairs, accelerator-/incubator-type support, and building a network of advisors from universities, employers, foundations and more.

The Stad Amsterdam is in the middle of a global circumnavigation, with local sailor Pat Broderick of the Wyliecat 30 Nancy on board for the leg from Hawaii to Japan. She’ll then travel the coast of Asia to Australia, across the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope, across to the Caribbean and up the East Coast before ending her two-year circumnavigation in Europe in August 2025.

The words of Herman Melville ring true when the world might look dire. It is the inspiration that comes from sailing, sailors, tall ships and the dreamers and creators who develop technologies in alignment with nature that will move the world and ourselves forward.

From Moby Dick, “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off — then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”

The Stad Amsterdam Departs This Sunday

If you’re feeling it’s “high time to get to the sea” to cheer up and get out on the Bay again, the Stad Amsterdam will be leaving this Sunday, so you can sail out in your “small ship” to send off the tall ship. She’ll be leaving from piers 30/32 in San Francisco at 10 a.m. on Sunday, the 24th, and proceeding to the Golden Gate headed toward Honolulu, on what looks likely to be be a sunny day with a fresh northwesterly. See you out there.


  1. Arthur 2 months ago

    There could be a way for Stad Amsterdam to stop using fossil fuels and keep its ICE’s,
    It could be in place within a year. Very interested in talking with their team.

  2. milly Biller 2 months ago

    I want to take this opportunity to make the sailing world aware of the wonderful work done by Ocean Planet Explorers, doing science education for kids and research on the Derek M Baliss, a sailing research boat out of Marina Bay, Richmond. The boat is 65′ and was designed by NA and local Tom Wylie, but can be handled by a crew of two- three people- because of her innovative cat ketch rig. As a very deserving non profit, they deserve more attention .

    • John Arndt 2 months ago

      Milly – thanks for the note and reminder. The work done by Tom Wylie, Kim Desenberg, Jody Wyatt, Zan Drejas and the rest of the Ocean Planet Explorer team has always reflected a vision dedicated to planet and people first. It’s an attitude you find amongst so many sailors who know sailing is what created the foundation of their connection and respect for nature and their fellow crew. It is why we created a page on our website dedicated to ‘The Heeling Power of Sailing’ which attempts to recognize all those who are motivated to use sailing as a way to heal the world. We’ve added Ocean Planet Explorers to the list and will continue to add more organizations who work to help the world through sailing. The connection to the sea becomes a powerful force to all who sail and we appreciate all who both enjoy it, have fun, take friends and participate to enhance their own lives and the lives of others.

  3. Carlos Alberto Daneri 2 months ago

    Congratulaciones to all off the people working no that wonderfull project.

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