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The HERMIONE, The Frigate of Liberty


A quick visit and pictures by Micheline Gutmann

Translation into English by David Presburger-Hauser

In GenAmi #68, we mentioned the Hermione, the frigate on which La Fayette left for his second trip to America in 1780. The ship participated in the Battle of the Chesapeake, which turned decisive against the British...


In 1992 in Rochefort was started a nonprofit group whose purpose was to build an exact replica of The Hermione. Its chairman was right from the start Erik Orsenna, 1988 Goncourt prize winner, member of the French Academy, already President of the Corderie royale : International Center for the Seas.

It took 17 years to bring the project to completion. Today the frigate is complete, except for a few finishing touches in the interior comfort. She will leave on September 6 for an inaugural two-month trip that will enable her to be tested as a ship and with a crew of 15 professional sailors and 54 volunteers who received serious training. The commander will be Yann Cariou, former commander of Belem, one of the largest three-masted sailing in the world, built in 1896 and currently a training ship. The second-in-command will be a young woman also formed on the Belem.

Reduced Model exhibited in Rochefort

The Bow

The Stern

The Shipyard, the Hull


As there was no recent experience on building such ships, everything had to be reinvented. The first step was the studying of historical records to establish plans. It was then necessary to find the wood, that is to say, the 2,000 oak trees.. It was followed by the installation of a huge construction site in the heart of the arsenal of Rochefort. Assembling the frame took several years itself. This is the largest replica ever built in France: 66m long, taller mast 47m high.

The Sails

Different works continued for several years as it was necessary to build while recovering past experience at the same time: sails (hand stitched), ropes .... Quantities of specialists joined to participate from all over Europe. July 6 to 18 2012 the ship left the drydock to take her first steps on the Charente River. That's when they took care of the rigging. It reaches 40m high. They invented a technique to build a very solid mast. Then came the team of riggers, who installed the 24km of rope needed.


The wing, requiring 2,200 m2 of linen, took its place on the yards.



We added a capstan and guns copied from the original model, also present on the ship.



The Amenities

Today it would be unthinkable to navigate with as little comfort as back then.
On frigates at the time, there were more than 300 men with only their comanding officers enjoying a little comfort (bunks, toilet, table served varied food), while sailors slept on the ground, eating dried meat. It took a lot of sailors as half were lost on the way by illness or accident, maneuvers being very difficult (including removing water filling the hold). If the interior comfort has improved, the maneuvers are still difficult and require rigorous training.
Today, 78 passengers, men and women will take part in the trip. Now installed are refrigerated galleys, toilets, beds and hammocks, tables and benches. Cabins for the captain, his second and the physician.



The group was supported by patrons, sponsors, businesses, regional and local communities and 4 million visitors who funded 60% of the cost of construction.



The trip to America

It will include several stops in the US: Yorktown, Washington, Annapolis (in the Chesapeake Bay), Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City (Port entry July 4, 2015 for Independance Day), Greenport, Boston, Castine (ME), Halifax (NS, Canada). On the way back, Brest will be the first stop.