TENS of thousands of people lined the banks of the river Charente to see the three-masted frigate Hermione leave Rochefort after 17 years of building work and head to sea.
A flotilla of thousands of boats of all sizes from kayaks and flat-bottomed oyster boats, to giant pleasure cruisers and lifeboats joined the convoy yesterday celebrating the first journey of the replica of the ship that took General Lafayette to America in 1780.
But that first journey was very nearly ruined by tonnes of silt that had built up outside Hermione’s dock at the Rochefort arsenal maritime.
She had been due to be towed to the city’s commercial port before dawn but the silt blocked bids to equalise the water level in the dock with that of the Charente.
Finally after an anxious night, the 65m ship was freed just before sunrise and was towed to the commercial port to be made ready for her afternoon departure.
Watched by thousands along the quaysides, she was eased into the river’s flow and then set off to the sound of ships’ horns and klaxons - and then, later, the sound of the Hermione's own cannons.
This morning she was off the Ile d’Aix where she will remain for a week week before starting two months of sea trials between Brest and Bordeaux. She will be berthed in Bordeaux between October 9 and 13 and will be open for visits at the Quai Richelieu before heading back to Rochefort towards November 11.
To see more photos and video of the day, check the Ville de Rochefort page on Facebook
Get more information on the building of the Hermione in our articles here at www.connexionfrance.com
To check the Hermione’s position at sea, check the Marine Traffic site here at www.marinetraffic.com then click "Dernière position reçue"
Photo: David Compain-Ville de Rochefort