Wednesday, October 8, 2014


8 OCTOBER 2014: A long awaited project in France has finally seen success! The reproduction French frigate of 1780 fame (more about that in a moment) has been launched and sailed! This is the first wooden tall ship built from scratch in recent times by the old methods. A remarkable task no matter how you cut it!
The project began life as a concept in 1993. "Let's build a replica of L'Hermione, the frigate that carried Lafayette to America in 1780 (near the end of the American Revolution) and sail her to America in 2015 in commemoration of that event." Plans began and teams researched British archives for drawings of the lines of the ship. They ultimately used the lines of Concorde, an exact sister ship of L'Hermione captured by the British during the Napoleonic wars. The original L'Hermione had wrecked in 1793 and her plans were never archived, apparently. But the British had a habit of taking the lines off any ship they captured and those archives have proved a real treasure-trove for modern day researchers. As a matter of interest, the organizers decided to build their replica in Rochfort on the Bay of Biscay, the same town where the original was built (the original only took 11 months, though!).
The original 1780 L'Hermione

Construction began in 1997 as funds were raised and by 2000, the hull had taken shape. In 2011, the hull was complete. Construction was done by volunteers, both skilled and unskilled, who worked as they were able on the project. (Thus, 11 years as opposed to 11 months!) She was launched in 2012 and in 2013, her masts were in place.

 The ship headed to sea in September of 2014 for sea trials and the timeline held for sailing her to America in 2015. When she arrived originally at Boston, she carried the Marquis de LaFayette who brought the news that France would help the Patriots with their revolution. And indeed, in 1781, Admiral deGrasse' s fleet arrived at the Virginia Capes in time to preclude British assistance to General Cornwallis in his fight with Washington at Yorktown. (The Battle of the Virginia Capes) The fighting ended with the Patriot victory in that battle.

                                            Here's L'Hermione in September under sail.   
And clicking on the link below will hopefully show you a time lapse video of her creation!

Not to be outdone, the American's have constructed a tall ship - differently built - in Rhode Island and we'll have a look at that project in a future edition.

                                                     Fair winds,
                                                          Old Salt

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