France Sends The Hermione Once Again
PHOTO: France and the Hermione were there in our revolution’s hour of need. (Photos courtesy of The Hermione)
After a two-month “reliving history” voyage, the Hermione will arrive at Riverwalk Landing dock in Historic Yorktown on the morning of June 5 after a 3,819 mile sail across the Atlantic. Once before, the Hermione came to Yorktown in order to deliver the young Marquis de Lafayette in 1780 to General George Washington. He came with the support of France including military assistance and financial aid. It was the French assistance that turned the battle of Yorktown into a decisive American victory, ended the Revolutionary War and had the pipers of the defeated Lord Cornwallis playing, “The World Turned Upside Down,” as Washington received his sword.
The original Hermione is long gone, but the reconstructed Hermione, 17 years in the building, will sail up the coast from Yorktown to 11 more ports in a series of events that will take place over two months. The ship will dock at Yorktown (June 5,6 and 7) before sailing to Mount Vernon (June 9), Alexandria/Washington D.C. (June 10, 11 and 12), Annapolis (June 16 and 17), Baltimore (June 19, 20 and 21), Philadelphia (June 25, 26, 27 and 28), New York City (July 1, 2, 3 and 4) Greenport with Tall Ships July 6 and 7, ), Newport (July 8 and 9), Boston (July 11 and 12), Castine (July 14 and 15) and finally Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (July 18) before returning to France.
Visitors can join the festivities at any point along the route and take tours on board or pier-side where activities are scheduled, including historic shipbuilding crafts demonstrations, interactive conversations with the young volunteer sailors, and a lineup of cultural activities like costumed performances by seasoned re-enactors, concerts of period and contemporary music and food, and craft exhibitions. At each stop there will be different events to commemorate the ship, the history and Lafayette himself. In New York, for instance, the Hermione will be joined by 300 other ships for the People’s Parade of Ships from the Verrazano Bridge to the Statue of Liberty and back up the Hudson River.
The Hermione left Rochefort, France in mid-April under Captain Yann Cariou, a 30-year veteran of the French Navy, with his second, Charlene Giquel, 29, a former Navy Lieutenant, in command. They have been training the crew for a year in old-world sailing practices that include maneuvering the yards and sails by hand from the rigging and other techniques. The crew will share their stories with visitors on board the ship and pier-side at each stop.
PHOTO: Captain Yann Cariou is the skipper of the Hermione on her historic return to Yorktown.
The idea of the Hermione was born 20 years ago when a small group led by Rochefort’s then Mayor Jean-Louis Frot, imagined reconstructing an exact replica of the Hermione. After a unanimous vote by the municipal council and the creation of the Association Hermione-La Fayette, work began. The project was completed thanks to the growing support of admirers and with help from the French government.
A committee of historians assured authenticity in the rebuilding except for when they had to accept several concessions to meet international maritime safety regulations, including two motors, modern navigational equipment and sanitary living conditions for the crew. Training for the cross-Atlantic re-enactment began in 2012.
“Not only is the Hermione a remarkable feat of precision and passion, she is a new symbol of the Anything is Possible motto held dear by the Marquis de Lafayette” said Miles Young, president of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, Inc., and Worldwide Chairman & CEO of Ogilvy and Mather. “The Hermione is constructed almost entirely using 18th Century ship-building techniques: 2,000 oak trees had to be found for 400,000 hand-sculpted pieces for the hull, techniques had to be reinvented, forges re-kindled and artisans from all over the world enlisted.”
The ship is being sailed by an all-volunteer crew of 72, a third of them women and with an average age of 27. A traveling photography exhibit covering the 17 years of the Hermione’s reconstruction will be free to the public in each port with companion exhibits at The New York Historical Society, the Museum of the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C., and The Athenaeum in Boston. Philadelphia will host a recreation of the meal aboard the Hermione that the Continental Congress enjoyed with Washington and Lafayette at City Tavern, the oldest tavern in America.
“Dignitaries and enthusiasts are making plans to welcome the Hermione in their respective cities,” says Judi Kilachand, The Executive Director of the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, Inc. “We are also excited that Tall Ships America, who will meet the Hermione as she approaches Philadelphia, will accompany the Hermione from Philadelphia to Castine.”
All Americans are indebted to Lafayette’s role of securing French money, men and arms and sailing to meet General Washington to aid America’s cause. His efforts are an often forgotten piece of our collective memory and an invaluable part of history too important to be lost.
More by James Ruggia
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