Hailing from an historic nautical city like Portsmouth and with a grandfather who was a master shipwright, I suspect that an interest in ships is built into my DNA. It might be unsurprising therefore to read this post about a ship called Hermione, one of the most interesting historical building projects I have ever witnessed.
I drove to Rochefort, the 17th century military naval base in the Charente-Maritime area on Poitou-Charentes’ Atlantic Coast to specifically view the progress of the Hermione project. It was here that the original Hermione was built in the 18th century in the Colbert Naval Arsenal – the ship that transported General Lafayette to the Americas in 1780 to fight against us Brits in their struggle for independence.
Well, a second Napoleon III-style Hermione is being meticulously re-built using skills not seen for a couple of centuries and (I had to smile to myself) using a plan of a similar British vessel for guidance. The project has been going on for over 14 years now and is somewhat nearing completion by the end of 2011 with sea trials in 2012. When deemed seaworthy, the ship will once again sail over to the Americas, hopefully to be received by the incumbent American President around 2014.
In the meantime, you can visit the Hermione and marvel at her size and the skill of the craftsmen/women working on it. It is no small feat to recreate a ship measuring more than 65 m from stem to stern with 1,500 sq m of sail spread over three masts. The hull is completely made of oak which is up to one metre thick and in case she comes against any nasties when sailing on her maiden voyage, she is built to withstand enemy cannonballs and will be able to carry 26 guns capable of firing 12-pound balls – hence the designation – “12-pounder frigate”.
The Hermione and her shipyard have now become a major tourist attraction and the two have welcomed well over 2.6 million visitors since the project started in 1997. It is now the third most popular tourist attraction in Charente-Maritime. After her planned voyage to the Americas, the Hermione will return home to her home port where she will become a permanent tourist attraction and living museum. She may even, it is whispered, take part in some Tall Ships events so we will be able to see her sailing form out at sea. What a sight that will be.
Contributer: Sue Lowry
CRT Poitou-Charentes is a client of Magellan PR.